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Thursday, Jul 29, 2021

AstraZeneca unit delivers jab to critics

AstraZeneca unit delivers jab to critics

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca Hong Kong says it will supply its Covid-19 vaccine in accordance with the advance purchase agreement, after experts called upon the SAR government to ditch it.
"Currently our local plans remain unchanged," the branch of the British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm yesterday said.

"We are continuing to work closely with Hong Kong and Macau governments for delivering our Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca on agreements to Hong Kong and Macau citizens," it said.

The statement came a day after the European Medicines Agency and the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said there is "a possible link" between the vaccine and rare blood clotting events but indicated such reactions should be listed as "a very rare side effect".

The regulators said the vaccine's benefits outweigh the risks.

The World Health Organization said the causal relationship is "plausible but not confirmed," and further studies will be conducted on the connection between possible risk factors and the vaccine.

It said blood clot events are very rare, with low numbers reported among 200 million people who have taken the jab. In Britain, 18 million adults have been inoculated with the vaccine with 79 blood clots reported, including 19 deaths.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in December announced the Vaxzevria vaccine, codeveloped by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, was one of the vaccine options.

She said an advance purchase agreement was reached to procure 7.5 million doses of the 76 percent effective vaccine, with the first batch expected to arrive late June.

However, government adviser David Hui Shu-cheong has repeatedly called upon the government to ditch the deal, as the blood clots, even though very rare, would deter the public from taking it.

The Chinese University respiratory expert also said the vaccine barely offers any protection against the more infectious South African variant.

Instead, he suggested looking at the single-dose vaccine by Janssen - a Belgium-based division of US giant Johnson & Johnson - if stocks are available.

The vaccine has an overall efficacy of 66 percent and also offers 50 percent protection against the South African variant.

Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Hong Kong president William Chui Chun-ming recommended the administration halve its AstraZeneca order instead of quitting the deal altogether, as it is dangerous to only rely on BioNTech and Sinovac.

But it is not known if any installment has been paid and whether cancellation of the contract would lead to compensation.

On that, a Food and Health Bureau spokesman said authorities would not reveal "information of individual vaccines" due to non-disclosure agreements.

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