BioNTech jabs restart after 12-day gap

2021-04-07 03:30     Comment:0

Macau’s BioNTech inoculations restarted after a 12-day suspension on Monday, after a replacement batch of 19,500 doses of the German-made mRNA vaccine were delivered to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre on Friday.

After its arrival in Hong Kong from Germany, the shipment was delivered to Macau via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB).

BioNTech vaccinations in Hong Kong also resumed on Monday following the arrival of a replacement batch on Friday.

BioNTech vaccinations were suspended in Macau and Hong Kong on March 24 after the manufacturer had detected packaging defects in some of the vials in Lot No. 210102. Two batches of BioNTech vaccines were delivered to Hong Kong from Germany earlier this year, Lot No. 210102 and Lot No. 210104. All the BioNTech vials that had previously been delivered to Macau from Germany via Hong Kong were part of Lot No. 210102. Despite the fact that the vials in Lot No. 210104 were not affected by the packaging defects, inoculations with all BioNTech jabs were suspended in Hong Kong on March 24.

However, a follow-up investigation by BioNTech in Germany in conjunction with its Shanghai-based distributor Fosun Pharma confirmed late last month that the vaccines were not affected by the packaging issue.

A statement by the Macau government’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre on Friday noted that the mRNA vaccines in the batch delivered to Macau this time have been produced and packaged in another BioNTech plant in Germany. No packaging defects have been detected in the vials in this new batch after undergoing repeated air pressure tests before their delivery, the statement said.

Friday’s statement underlined that after defrosting, Health Bureau (SSM) medical staff will always carefully check the vaccine vials for possible defects before administering the BioNTech jabs. “Health Bureau frontline medical workers will always carefully examine every [BioNTech] vial in strict compliance with established procedures to ensure that there aren’t any abnormalities [before the vaccine is used],” the statement said.

The statement underlined that the Macau Health Bureau has been in close contact with the BioNTech vaccine supplier about the packaging defects.

The statement said that according to the interim findings of the ongoing investigation jointly carried out by Fosun Pharma and BioNTech, “during the packaging of the vaccine, the crimping of the metal ring failed to ensure the integrity of the packaging of the vials”.

The statement noted that as BioNTech mRNA vaccines are stored at an ultra-low temperature, the vaccine in the vials affected by the packaging defects had a low risk of bacterial infection.

Friday’s statement also reaffirmed that according to the findings of detailed data analysis and random sampling by Fosun Pharma and BioNTech, there is no evidence indicating that the batch of mRNA vaccines that had previously been delivered to Macau poses a health risk.

According to the statement, BioNTech has told the Macau government that even if the vials are affected by packaging defects, the integrity of the vaccine’s mRNA and lipid nanoparticles is not affected.

Consequently, the manufacturer has confirmed that the packaging defects did not affect the BioNTech vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, the statement said, reassuring residents who have been inoculated with the German vaccine that they do not need to worry.

According to the statement, the manufacturer has requested the Macau government to continue to “seal up” the BioNTech doses that have not been administered in the batch affected by the packaging defects, before it comes up with the final findings of the investigation.

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.

After the first batch of 100,425 doses of BioNTech mRNA vaccines arrived in Macau from Germany via Hong Kong in late February, the city’s BioNTech inoculations started on March 3.

According to Friday’s statement, those who had their vaccination appointments before April 5 were required to make a new appointment, while those with their first or second inoculation appointment for April 5 or afterwards will have their scheduled vaccination dates unchanged.

Meanwhile, the centre announced in a statement yesterday that as of 4 p.m. yesterday, 57,251 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Macau, resulting in 221 minor adverse events and one serious adverse event.

Both types of COVID-19 vaccines currently available in Macau, China’s Sinopharm inactivated vaccine and Germany’s BioNTech mRNA vaccine, require two jabs for people to develop immunity.

A Macau Customs Service SUV and a traffic police motorcycle drive in front of two chiller lorries delivering BioNTech mRNA jabs en route to the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre after their arrival at the Macau checkpoint of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) from Germany via Hong Kong’s airport on Friday. Photo: GCS

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