Hong Kong — Fewer Hong Kong residents are showing up to get vaccines from Chinese maker Sinovac Biotech amid reports of side effects, even as demand was strong for shots developed by Pfizer-BioNTech on the day of their debut.

The number of people who received their scheduled Sinovac immunisations at community vaccination centres fell to 72% on Wednesday, down from a high of more than 90% last week. More than one-third of those who signed up for the vaccine, 36%, were no-shows on Tuesday.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, brought into the city by Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical, was administered to 91% of those signed up to get it on Wednesday, the first day it was available.

The skipping of Sinovac vaccine appointments comes after the city reported three deaths and three critical illnesses among the more than 130,000 people inoculated to date. While none has been linked to the Sinovac vaccines, hesitancy around getting the shots has risen among residents. Authorities ruled out a tie between the vaccines and the first two deaths and two critical cases, while they are still analysing the more recent reports.

“It’s understandable some residents are worried about the latest serious adverse events and even deaths following vaccination,” public service secretary Patrick Nip said on Tuesday. All of the serious side effects will be reviewed closely by an expert committee, as is common procedure, he said.

The health department is expected to issue new guidelines shortly recommending that some high-risk people, including those with uncontrolled diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, should delay getting vaccinated, according to a report from The Standard.

India and mainland China also had sluggish starts to their vaccination efforts, due at least in part to distrust and concern over vaccines.

Hong Kong began its public vaccination campaign on February 26, prioritising people aged 60 and older, health-care staff and other essential workers. Starting on Tuesday, it expanded its priority groups to cover 3.7-million people, about half of its population, adding those in high-risk contact positions such as teachers, public transportation drivers and restaurant workers.

Other countries have also reported fatalities among people who have received inoculations, though the numbers have been small and nearly all cases involved underlying conditions. None of the deaths or serious complications have been tied to the shots.


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