The Hospital Authority (HA) has suspended flu vaccinations in all public hospitals and out-patient clinics after Taiwanese authorities found impurities in samples of the vaccine.
The service is expected to resume gradually from Saturday after the batch of vaccines in question is replaced, the HA said.
The suspension came after Sanofi-Aventis Hong Kong Ltd., a locally licensed drug wholesaler of French drug giant Sanofi-Aventis SA, informed the Department of Health earlier on Tuesday that it has suspended the market supply of a batch of quadrivalent seasonal influenza vaccines (SIVs) (with box label R3J721V and syringe label R3J72) and will arrange to deliver a new batch of quadrivalent SIVs to local private healthcare facilities as soon as possible.
Earlier, the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration found two separate batches of the SIVs to contain suspicious white and black suspended particles, and asked Sanofi on Monday to send the questionable doses back to the company in France for testing, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
According to information provided by Sanofi, around 175,000 doses of the SIV in question have been shipped to Hong Kong and part of the batch has been distributed to the health department, the Hospital Authority and healthcare facilities.
Data from the health department showed that about 100,000 doses of the vaccine remain unused, implying that as many as 75,000 people have received injections of the questionable vaccine.
The HA, however, said it has not received any adverse reports related to the affected vaccines.
Sanofi said more than 20 million doses of quadrivalent SIVs have been supplied around the world in the current influenza season and it has not received so far any reports about the safety of the affected vaccines. It expects to supply a new batch from Wednesday.
While Sanofi said samples of the concerned batch of quadrivalent SIVs were found to contain white particles by Taiwan authority, the company said it has not received any report regarding the presence of white particles in the same batch of SIVs currently supplied to Hong Kong.
There is so far no evidence showing that the quality, safety or efficacy of the SIVs supplied to Hong Kong has been affected, or that it poses risks to those receiving the vaccines, Sanofi added.
The health department said its services, including the Elderly Health Centers, will suspend seasonal influenza vaccination service until the supplier dispatches a new batch of vaccines.
It also said its School Outreach Vaccination Pilot Programme is not affected as the vaccines it uses are supplied by another company.
The government also asked Sanofi to submit a report regarding the presence of white particles in the affected vaccines.
It reminded residential care home operators and visiting doctors to look at their records to determine whether they have procured the affected quadrivalent SIVs. If they have, they should suspend the use of the vaccines immediately and contact Sanofi for relevant arrangements.
Those who feel unwell after receiving the flu vaccination should consult healthcare professionals, a spokesman for the department advised, adding that it will also closely monitor the arrangements and keep in close contact with Sanofi.
William Chui Chun-ming, president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Hong Kong, said flu vaccination does not pose high risk to recipients’ health since it is a type of intramuscular injection, which does not cause embolism like vascular injections.
Chui said those who have taken vaccinations of the SIVs in question need not receive another injection, although he is worried that some people may resist flu vaccination because of the incident.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong branch of GlaxoSmithKline, another major flu vaccine supplier in the city, said it is discussing with its headquarters in Britain about the feasibility of increasing local supply.
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