Macau possibly to get replacement BioNTech jabs: Ao Ieong

2021-03-26 03:41     Comment:1

Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U said yesterday that in case the Macau government concludes that there would be a need to replace the batch of BioNTech mRNA vaccines that is currently in Macau with a new one, the alternative batch of vaccines would be delivered to Macau “within a short period of time”.

Ao Ieong made the remarks while speaking to reporters at The Plaza Restaurant in Zape after attending a reception marking the 37th anniversary of the Macau General Union of Neighbourhood Associations (commonly known as Kai Fong) – one of the city’s biggest community associations.

The policy secretary’s remarks came after the Macau and Hong Kong governments suspended administering BioNTech vaccines due to “packaging defects” from Wednesday.

Unlike in other parts of the world, US pharma company Pfizer is not distributing Germany’s BioNTech vaccine in Hong Kong and Macau, with Shanghai-based Fosun Pharma being the distributor for the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macau.

Fosun Industrial Company Limited in Hong Kong informed the Hong Kong and Macau governments on Wednesday morning that “packaging defects” were detected in the vial caps of the BioNTech mRNA vaccines (validity period until June 2021) in Lot No. 210102.

BioNTech and Fosun Pharma launched an investigation into the cause of the problem on Wednesday morning, requesting the Hong Kong and Macau governments to immediately suspend inoculations with BioNTech jabs.

BioNTech and Fosun Pharma said on Wednesday that they were convinced that the product does not pose a health risk. However, as a precautionary measure, inoculations with vaccines from Lot No. 210102 needed to be suspended until the investigation has been completed, both said.

Two batches of BioNTech vaccines were delivered to Hong Kong from Germany, Lot No. 210102 and Lot No. 210104. All the BioNTech jabs delivered to Macau from Germany via Hong Kong are part of Lot No. 210102. Despite the fact that the jabs in Lot No. 210104 are not affected by the “packaging defects”, inoculations with all BioNTech jabs were suspended in Hong Kong.

The Macau Health Bureau (SSM) said on Wednesday that it will maintain close communication with the BioNTech jab supplier for a contingency plan if the mRNA jabs in Lot No. 210102 cannot be used, with the aim of enabling Macau to resume its inoculations with BioNTech vaccines as soon as possible, which would consist of two possible solutions, namely delivering jabs from other batches that are currently in Hong Kong to Macau, or an emergency shipment of newly-produced doses from Germany.

2 possible solutions

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Ao Ieong underlined that the suspension of inoculations with BioNTech jabs is not due to a quality issue of the vaccine per se but merely due to “packaging defects”. She said that the Macau government is currently in close communication with the BioNTech jab supplier about a solution to the matter.

Ao Ieong said that for the time being the Macau government believes that there would be two alternative possibilities which would enable Macau to resume its BioNTech inoculations. Concerning the first possible solution, the Macau government would continue to use the jabs in Macau that are not affected by the packaging defects, according to Ao Ieong.

Regarding the second possible solution, Ao Ieong said that a new batch of BioNTech jabs would be delivered to Macau replacing the batch – Lot No. 210102 – that is currently in Macau, adding that the Macau government believes that they could be delivered to Macau within a short period short time. “We believe that we would not need to wait for too long,” she said.

Ao Ieong also revealed that Health Bureau medical workers had already detected packaging abnormalities in a small number of doses during their work administering BioNTech jabs to residents. The Health Bureau was informed by the BioNTech jab supplier of the packaging defects when the former was still counting the number of doses affected by the packaging abnormalities, she said.

The Macau government’s COVID-19 vaccination drive started on February 9 with Sinopharm inactivated jabs covering those in priority groups such as those working on the frontline against COVID-19 and those working in occupations that are subject to a high COVID-19 risk. Inoculations for all local residents started on February 22. The inoculations with BioNTech mRNA vaccines started on March 3.

The policy secretary also said that she “does not suggest” that those who have had their first BioNTech jab switch to another type of COVID-19 vaccine. She noted that normally those who have received their first COVID-19 jab will need to have the second jab 28 days afterwards, but it would still be all right if they receive the second jab “a certain period of time” after the 28-day interval, adding she believed that residents “will not need to wait for too long” before the resumption of BioNTech inoculations in Macau.

Lo’s promotion confirmed

Meanwhile, Ao Ieong also confirmed that Alvis Lo Iek Long, one of the three clinical directors of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, will replace Lei Chin Ion as the director of the Health Bureau (SSM) next month when the latter will retire.

Ao Ieong underlined that Lo has extensive experience in hospital management as he has been a member of the public hospital’s management team for a long time. Lo, a consultant pulmonologist, has been working in the hospital’s COVID-19 isolation wards intensively during Macau’s fight against COVID-19, apart from the fact that he has been engaging in the government’s decision-making process for COVID-19 measures, according to Ao Ieong.

Ao Ieong also said that she expects Lo to further improve Macau’s medical service after taking up his new position. “I believe that everyone knows him well,” she said.

Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Elsie Ao Ieong U speaks to reporters at The Plaza Restaurant in Zape yesterday. Photo: GCS

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  • visitors2021032623:212021-03-26 23:21

    Ao Ieong made the remarks at MGM Macau in Nape after attending a reception hosted by the Macau Federation of Trade Unions (commonly known as Gung Luen) – one of the city’s biggest community associations – to mark the 70th anniversary of its clinic service, which is currently running three Workers Clinics in the city.