Hong Kong could throw away doses of COVID-19 vaccines because their expiration date is approaching and very few people have signed up to receive them, given the distrust of the population, the local authority warned.
A member of the government commission for vaccines cautioned that Hong Kongers only have a three-month window before the expiration of the first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
“These vaccines have an expiration date,” Thomas Tsang, former comptroller of the Center for Health Protection, told RTHK radio. “They cannot be used after the expiration date and BioNTech’s community vaccination centers will stop operating in September, as planned,” he added.
So far only 19% of the city’s population has received one dose of any vaccine, while 14% have received both doses. Even among health workers there are doubts about receiving vaccines.
The city’s Hospital Authority revealed this month that only a third of its staff have been vaccinated.
Hong Kong received 3.26 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, but only 1.23 million have been injected. “What we have is probably all we will have this year,” Tsang warned.
Hong Kong received about two million doses of Sinovac, but this vaccine can be kept a little longer (one year).
The Hong Kong authorities’ warning comes as other regions of the world, particularly lower-income countries, are racing for vaccines to combat strong outbreaks of COVID-19.
Six leaders of Latin America and the Caribbean on Monday asked the international community for equitable access to vaccines and that rich countries share their surpluses.
The request was signed by Alberto Fernández, president of Argentina; Carlos Alvarado, president of Costa Rica; Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President of Mexico; Andrew Michael Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica; Luis Alberto Arce Catacora, President of Bolivia; Guillermo Lasso Mendoza, President of Ecuador, and Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, President of Uruguay.