Hong Kong halts use of Pfizer vaccine, cites defective lids

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People queue up outside a vaccination center for BioNTech in Hong Kong Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Hong Kong suspended vaccinations using Pfizer shots - known as BioNTech shots in the city - on Wednesday after they were informed by its distributor Fosun that one batch had defective bottle lids. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG – Hong Kong suspended use of the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday after its Chinese distributor informed the city that one batch had defective bottle lids.

The city's government said the suspension was immediate while the matter is investigated by distributor Fosun Pharma and BioNTech, the German company that created the vaccine with American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer.

BioNTech and Fosun Pharma have not found any reason to believe the product is unsafe, according to the statement. However, vaccinations will be halted as a preventive and safety measure.

The defective lids were found on vaccines from batch number 210102. A separate batch of vaccines, 210104, will also be not be administered.

The semi-autonomous territory of Macao also said Wednesday that its residents will not receive the Pfizer shots from the same batch.

The vaccines from the batch comprise a total of 585,000 doses, with the other batch number 210104 holding 758,000 doses, according to Hong Kong’s Director of Health Constance Chan.

Although about 150,000 doses from the batch 210102 have been administered in the city so far, officials said during a press briefing Wednesday that the vaccines were safe to use despite the packaging defects, and that suspending the vaccination was a precautionary measure. Batch number 210104 remains in the warehouse and has not been used.

Chan said that there were over 40 instances when medical personnel found defective packaging, such as cracks on the vaccine bottles or leakages when the vaccine was diluted with saline before being administered.