March 24 (UPI) — Hong Kong and Macao said Wednesday they have immediately suspended administering the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech as a “precautionary measure” after a batch had issues with their vial lids.
The Hong Kong government said the suspension is in place “until further notice” as an investigation by German firm BioNTech and Chinese distributor Fosun Pharma is under way to identify the cause of the packaging issue.
“BioNTech and Fosun Pharma have no reason to believe that there is a risk to product safety,” the city said, stating that “for the sake of prudence” a second batch produced in Hong Kong would also be shelved until the investigation is complete.
The city said it launched the investigation after Fosun limited Wednesday morning notified it in writing that “deviation in the vial seal” of the vaccine had been observed.
Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan told reporters Wednesday that they are “very concerned” about the defects but there is “no reasons to believe their products have safety risks,” the Hong Kong Free Press reported.
In Macao, the special administrative regional government separately announced the suspension of its Pfizer campaign in a statement citing the same lid packaging defect.
Hong Kong has approved two vaccines and with the suspension announced Wednesday leaves only the China-made Sinovac jab available to residents for the time being.
Some 403,000 people in the former British colony have been vaccinated against COVID-19, including 252,800 people who have received their first shot of the Sinovac drug and about 150,200 people who have received the first jab of the one developed by Pfizer, the government said in a statement.
The announcement of the suspension follows more than a dozen European nations temporarily pausing administering the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca earlier this month due to a small number of cases of blood clotting in those who received the jab. Most nations have since restarted using the vaccine after an investigation by the European regulator found no connection between the cases of blood clotting and the jab.