英文

Editorial:Suspension of Comirnaty vaccination

【明報專訊】Hong Kong's COVID-19 vaccination programmes have suffered another setback. The government has announced the suspension of the BioNTech ''Comirnaty'' vaccination after a batch delivered from Europe was found to have packaging defects in the vial seals. Vaccination centres have repeatedly found that the caps of the vials from the same batch are loose or crooked, so it is reasonable to suspend the vaccination programme temporarily and wait for the investigation by the pharmaceutical company. Most importantly, the manufacturer should replenish its stocks as soon as possible to ensure citizens who have had the first shot can receive the second dose in time.

It has almost been one month since the start of the vaccination programme in Hong Kong. 400,000 people, who make up 5% of the total population, have been vaccinated. Compared with the first month of vaccination in some European countries, the vaccination rate in Hong Kong is not too bad but far from remarkable. It is difficult to say how much the delay in the Comirnaty vaccination will affect the inoculation progress, but the sooner the problem is solved, the better.

Government officials have stressed that all problematic doses have been discarded and have not been administered to citizens. However, those who have made vaccination appointments for the next few days will inevitably bemoan the abrupt change of their schedules. The government's suspension of the vaccination programme pending the drug company's investigative report is the circumspect and appropriate thing to do. However, the government's contingency plan is evidently inadequate, and this calls for review.

Many citizens did not know that they could not receive vaccinations until they were at the vaccination centres yesterday morning (March 24). The staff knew little about the suspension and were unable to give a full explanation. Some citizens were dissatisfied and grumbled. Some vaccination centres, unaware of the latest development, continued to inject some citizens with the Comirnaty jab until they knew the government had suspended the use of it. All this shows that the government did not disseminate information as quickly and clearly as necessary. Government officials mentioned repeatedly that it was the Hong Kong government who informed Fosun Pharma of the defects in the vial seals. If so, the government should have prepared for the emergency. The confusion that occurred yesterday morning could have been avoided.

How long the government will have to suspend the Comirnaty vaccination depends on the progress of the investigation by the manufacturer. If the problem is addressed in a timely manner, the impact can be smaller. If Europe has accelerated legislation to restrict the export of COVID-19 vaccines, which may affect pharmaceutical companies' supply of vaccines to other regions, things will get more complicated. In response, the Hong Kong government should plan early to require manufacturers to bear the responsibilities for defective vaccines.

The growth of vaccine hesitancy around the world has had a significant impact on the fight against the pandemic. The situation in Hong Kong can only be more complicated since the issue of vaccinations is often mingled with politics and prejudice. Even though experts have confirmed that vaccines are guaranteed to be safe and effective before they are introduced, some people still exaggerate the one-sided information and attack the vaccines they ''do not like''. Consequently, vaccine hesitancy in society has intensified. The suspension of the Comirnaty vaccination in Hong Kong and Macao is only due to defective vials, which is not related to the safety of the vaccine. One should not make a mountain out of a molehill. Some people claim that the government's suspension of the Comirnaty vaccination is aimed at forcing people to receive the Sinovac vaccine. Such a conspiracy theory will do all kinds of harm but no good to the government's plan to accelerate the vaccination programme.

明報社評 2021.03.25:復必泰接種無奈暫停 渲染炒作添疫苗猶豫

本港新冠疫苗接種計劃再添阻滯,歐洲供港的一批復必泰(BioNTech)疫苗,有藥瓶封蓋包裝發現瑕疵,政府宣布暫停接種。接種中心一再發現同一批次疫苗有瓶蓋鬆脫或歪斜情况,短暫叫停接種,等待藥廠跟進調查,也是合理之舉,當下最重要是要生產商盡快「補貨」,確保已打第一針的市民能及時接種第二劑。

本港疫苗接種計劃啟動快滿一個月,40萬人接種,相當於總人口5%,若與歐洲一些國家首個月的情况相比,接種比例未算太差,惟也遠遠說不上亮麗。這次復必泰接種遇上阻滯麻煩,對本港打針進度影響有多大,暫時仍難斷言,問題愈早解決愈好。

政府官員強調,所有出問題的針劑都被棄掉,沒有為市民接種。對於預約了在未來數天接種的市民,接種突然叫停,大失預算難免有怨言,然而當局謹慎起見暫停接種,等候藥廠提交調查報告,亦是恰當做法,只是政府的應變處理,明顯有不足之處,值得檢討。

不少市民昨早抵達接種中心,方知無法接種,現場工作人員所知有限,解釋不足,有市民不滿鼓譟。另外,亦有接種中心不清楚最新情况,昨早如常為部分市民打針,到後來才知政府叫停。凡此種種,均顯示政府的資訊發放不夠清楚迅速。港府官員一再提到,是港方先告知復星有疫苗瓶蓋出問題,既然如此,當局理應早有準備,昨早出現的混亂情况,並非無可避免。

當局暫停復必泰接種,為期多久,很大程度視乎生產商的調查進度,倘若處理及時,影響可以小一些;萬一歐洲方面加快立法限制新冠疫苗出口,影響當地藥廠對外供貨,問題可能變得較為複雜,港府要及早籌謀,要求生產商為瑕疵品負起責任。

各地疫苗猶豫情緒擴散,對於抗疫工作,本來就有很大影響,香港的情况就更為複雜,疫苗接種經常滲入政治和成見,縱使專家顧問確認疫苗安全有效才引入,仍有一些人經常渲染片面信息,攻擊他們「看不順眼」的疫苗,實際結果是加深整個社會的疫苗猶豫。港澳叫停接種復必泰,只因瑕疵瓶問題,與疫苗本身是否安全無關,不應上綱上線;有人揚言政府叫停接種,旨在逼市民接種科興疫苗,這類陰謀論炒作,對於本港加快推進疫苗接種計劃,同樣百害而無一利。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

replenish /rɪˈplenɪʃ/:to make sth full again by replacing what has been used

one-sided /ˌwʌn ˈsaɪdɪd/:considering or showing only one side of a question, subject etc in a way that is unfair

make a mountain out of a molehill:to treat a problem as if it was very serious when in fact it is not

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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