(Adds comments from Fosun Pharma’s chairman in para. 6 & 7)
HONG KONG, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Hong Kong has formally approved use of the Fosun Pharma-BioNTech vaccine, the city government said on Monday, the first COVID-19 vaccine to be accepted in the Asian financial hub.
The first batch of around one million doses is expected to arrive in the second half of February, the government added in a statement.
The move comes with Hong Kong lagging other developed cities in rolling out vaccines and after mainland China started its vaccine program in July last year.
Hong Kong has secured a total of 22.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Fosun Pharma-BioNTech, China’s Sinovac Biotech and Oxford-AstraZeneca, the city’s leader Carrie Lam said in December.
Fosun Pharma is German drug manufacturer BioNTech’s partner in Greater China including in special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau. Fosun is responsible for cold-chain management, storage and distribution.
“We will continue working closely with BioNTech to complete the ongoing clinical trial and marketing registration in Greater China,” said Wu Yifang, Chairman and CEO of Fosun Pharma.
“We will also cooperate closely with (Hong Kong) regarding a vaccination deployment plan to ensure that Hong Kong citizens can receive a well-tolerated and effective mRNA COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible in order to protect the health of millions of households,” Wu added.
China’s Sinovac vaccine is likely to arrive in Hong Kong after BioNTech’s vaccine in February, with AstraZeneca’s vaccine due by the middle of the year.
Home to 7.5 million residents, Hong Kong has a separate approval process from the mainland for vaccines. The city has recorded nearly 10,000 coronavirus cases and 166 deaths since Jan 2020. Cases have spiked over the past week after an outbreak in an old residential building located in a busy commercial and residential area.
In China, a vaccination programme for emergency use started in July with products from domestic manufacturers Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech.
The program was widened in December to focus on additional priority groups including employees in the cold-chain industry, transportation sector and fresh food markets.
China’s state media outlets have run a series of articles criticising Western COVID-19 vaccines in the past week, including Pfizer’s, while touting China-made vaccines as safer and more accessible.
Reporting by Twinnie Siu and Donny Kwok; Additional reporting by Roxanne Liu in Beijing; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Louise Heavens, Kirsten Donovan