Hong Kong health regulators are set to approve the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the week as officials have already selected warehouses in Kwai Chung to store the vials and are preparing to undertake the difficult task of administering millions of doses to the city-state's residents, according to government sources.
Sources with knowledge in the matter said that Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee is already set to approval for the use of the vaccine developed by Pfizer in cooperation with Germany's BioNTech. The same sources said that the approval could be given as early as Friday.
The first round of inoculations will involve the distribution of 1 million doses to high-risk groups such as health care workers and senior citizens.
Sources with knowledge of the city's logistics plans said that the warehouses will be run by a health care logistics company picked by Fosun Pharma - BioNTech's partner in China.
The logistics company will be responsible for storing, repacking, and distributing the vaccines, which will need to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit) and then thawed before use. The warehouses where the vaccines will be stores will need to have refrigerators capable of storing the vials at a specific temperature.
Most vaccines can be stored at room temperature, which makes going with Pfizer's treatment logistically challenging. Officially initially wanted to use a cold storage facility near the Hong Kong International Airport but Fosun reportedly changed the location due to some repacking issues.
"Repackaging of those vaccines must be done at this temperature range rather than at room temperature. The site near the airport could only be used for storage, but the thawing of the vaccine will need to be done by vaccination service providers," one of the sources said.
Apart from Pfizer's vaccine, Hong Kong has also secured two other vaccine sources, namely from China's Sinovac and the UK's AstraZeneca. Sinovac is expected to deliver its vaccines to Hong Kong later this month, while AstraZeneca is expected to make delivery by the middle of the year.