BioNTech vaccine: Fosun Pharma says a new shipment is ready for delivery to Hong Kong and Macau, pending results of investigation into defective packaging in the first batch

Martin Choi
·4-min read

Fosun Pharma, the agent distributing BioNTech vaccines in Hong Kong and Macau, said that a new batch of doses is ready to be shipped, pending the results of the investigation into packaging defects which had halted the cities’ roll-out of the German-made jabs, sending its shares to their biggest intraday percentage gain in seven days.

The replacement batch of BioNTech vaccines for Hong Kong and Macau, and the next batch, will be sent pending the results of the investigation, Fosun Pharma’s chairman and chief executive Wu Yifang said in an interview on Tuesday. An announcement about the investigation outcome will be made in the next couple of days, he said.

“There will definitely be a new batch of [vaccines] for Hong Kong and Macau, to resolve issues about continuing the vaccination programme,” said Wu.

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The third batch of BioNTech vaccines was “already prepared, but we must ensure that the investigation is complete, without any potential uncertainties,” Wu added. “Vaccines are preventive products, and must [adhere to] the highest requirements.”

An undated photo of Wu Yifang, chairman and CEO of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group. Photo / Handout
An undated photo of Wu Yifang, chairman and CEO of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group. Photo / Handout

Hong Kong’s health officials last Wednesday abruptly stopped the city’s BioNTech vaccination roll-out on the advice of the vaccine’s supplier, after the scheme’s frontline staff identified more than 50 defects to vials, including cracks and leaks, as well as stains on their exterior, in the first batch numbered “210102”. About a quarter, or 150,000 of the 585,000 doses in the first batch, had been used so far.

Vaccinations of the affected batch, as well as 758,000 doses of batch number 210104 currently in storage were halted by health officials as a safety precaution. The government has stressed that neither batch posed any safety risk.

As of Monday, 450,500 people, or 6 per cent of the city’s 7.5 million population, had received their first dose of a vaccine. Around 151,300 had taken the BioNTech one, while another 299,200 had received the jab by Chinese vaccine developer Sinovac Biotech, according to government data. About 24,600 recipients, or 0.33 per cent of the population, had received their second Sinovac shot.

A notice outside the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Centre in Sai Ying Pun, a day after Hong Kong announced the temporary halt of Covid-19 vaccinations from a single batch of BioNTech shots due to defects, on March 25, 2021. Photo: May Tse
A notice outside the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Centre in Sai Ying Pun, a day after Hong Kong announced the temporary halt of Covid-19 vaccinations from a single batch of BioNTech shots due to defects, on March 25, 2021. Photo: May Tse

Fosun Pharma’s shares jumped by as much as 3 per cent in Hong Kong today to an intraday high of HK$33.75, their biggest one-day percentage jump in seven days. The stock had recovered most of its losses since plunging by about 8 per cent when the BioNTech vaccination was halted last week.

Yesterday, Fosun Pharma reported a 10.3 per cent increase in its 2020 net income to 3.7 billion yuan (US$563 million), beating the 0.2 per cent increase expected in Bloomberg’s poll of six analysts. Revenue from the Shanghai-based company’s medical devices and diagnosis segment jumped 39.7 per cent to 5.2 billion yuan, accounting for 17.3 per cent of the group’s total revenues.

The increases in sales revenue and net profit were attributable to contributions from anti-pandemic products, including nucleic acid test kits, negative pressure ambulances and ventilators, according to the company’s filing.

The pharmaceutical company will focus its research and sales efforts on more treatment options for the Covid-19 pandemic, zooming in on vaccines that work on messenger RNA (mRNA), such as the HLX71 and HLX70 drug candidates developed by its Shanghai Henlius Biotech subsidiary. The drug was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for clinical trials late last year.

“In terms of combating the coronavirus pandemic, we will focus on mRNA vaccines, and develop antibody treatments for symptoms from Covid-19,” said Wu. “We are also experimenting with some small-molecular drugs [to treat Covid-19], but so far we haven’t seen any products in the small molecule [space] that can...solve the problem immediately. These are still in the early stages of development, and we are still exploring.”

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