Nearly two dozen people were given expired BioNTech Covid-19 jabs at a Hong Kong clinic, the Department of Health revealed on Friday, the second such incident in three days.
The department on Friday said it was notified by UMP Medical Centre in Kowloon Bay the day before it had administered the expired vaccines to 21 patients between January 16 and 28 and from March 7 to 28. The jabs were between one and 22 days past the suggested use-by date.
Among them, 18 were bivalent vaccines and three were jabs for the original strain of the coronavirus.
“The department is highly concerned about the incident and immediately requested the medical service provider to submit a report upon receiving the notification in the late afternoon of Thursday,” the statement reads.
Noting the affected people did not report any discomfort, the department inspected the medical centre on Friday morning and suspended its vaccination service.
“The department will continue to follow up to see if the medical centre has implemented relevant improvement measures to decide if their vaccination services can be resumed,” the department said.
Manufacturer Fosun Pharma suggested the bivalent and ancestral strain vaccines should be kept at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit ) and be used within 70 days and 31 days after thawing, respectively, the department said.
In 2020, BioNTech and Fosun Pharma announced a strategic collaboration to work jointly on the development and commercialisation of Covid-19 vaccine products.
On Wednesday, the department announced it was investigating an incident of 14 people being administered expired BioNTech bivalent vaccines in Quality HealthCare Kowloon Bay centre.
A regular inspection of the centre conducted by the department found that the vaccines, kept one day to eight days after the suggested use-by-date, were administered to 14 people from March 21 to 28.
The department said none of the affected people had reported discomfort.
In both incidents, the authority said they had consulted a local expert and asked Fosun Pharma about the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine. No re-vaccination was needed for the affected people.
Lawmaker Dr Dennis Lam Shun-chiu said the expired vaccine might not be harmful provided they were still stored in the required condition.
“However, I suggest those affected people have blood tests to see if they have enough antibodies to avoid re-vaccination,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ophthalmologist added the incidents should be dealt with “seriously”.
“They could be prevented as there are clear instructions for administering vaccines. The government should handle it seriously if it involves human error,” noted Lam.