Hong Kong’s government on Thursday approved the Chinese-made Sinovac coronavirus vaccine for emergency use after a panel of experts fast-tracked its recommendation despite the drug’s comparatively low efficacy.
“The first batch of one million jabs of Sinovac vaccines will arrive in Hong Kong soon,” the government statement said.
Local media reported that the first vaccinations could arrive as soon as Friday, finally kicking off the financial hub’s delayed inoculation drive.
But officials may face an uphill task persuading residents to take Sinovac’s shots in a city where public distrust of Chinese authorities runs deep.
On Tuesday, a government advisory panel unanimously supported Sinovac saying the benefits of authorising its use outweighed the risks.
Unlike rival vaccines such as those from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, SinoVac has yet to submit its third phase clinical trial data to medical journals for peer review.
Sinovac has been exempted from that hurdle by Hong Kong officials and told they could instead give the information directly to the experts.
The advisory panel said it had received adequate data from the company.
That data, the panel said, showed an efficacy rate of 62.3 percent when two doses are administered 28 days apart.
Late-stage trials in Brazil had shown an efficacy rate of just above 50 percent — the threshold the World Health Organization uses to decide if a vaccine is worth using.
The efficacy rates for the competitor vaccines are also higher — BioNTech has confirmed a 95 percent protection rate when two shots are administered.
Hong Kong’s health authorities have previously approved BioNTech’s vaccine. RTHK reported on Thursday that the first BioNTech shots are expected to arrive in the city next week.