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Hong Kong suspends Pfizer vaccines over packaging

Officials in Hong Kong on Wednesday moved to halt the distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine after discovering issues with the packaging.

News wires reported that the suspension occurred in response to cracks and stains spotted on vaccine containers. The issue only affected one batch of the vaccine, but a second batch officials have in storage was also suspended from use.

Authorities said that there was no danger to the public resulting from the damaged packaging, noting that some doses from the affected batch were already distributed before the suspension occurred. Some of the doses in storage were found to have been diluted by saline solution as a result of cracks in their packaging.

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“Fosun has promised to carry out an immediate investigation so they are going to approach the manufacturer in Germany to look into their plant,” said Constance Chan, the province's health director, according to the AP. “When the vaccines arrive in Hong Kong, they will have a review of the whole logistics chain to see if that’s the cause of the current situation.”

“BioNTech and Fosun have not found any reason to believe that product safety is at risk,” added Chan, according to Reuters.

The issue will likely not affect Pfizer-BioNTech's rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine but could dampen efforts by Hong Kong health authorities to encourage residents to get vaccinated. Residents were already seeking the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a higher rate than the Chinese-manufactured Sinovac also being administered by Hong Kong authorities, who according to news reports worry that this latest issue could cause a new wave of skepticism toward the injections.

Just about 5 percent of Hong Kong's 7.5 million residents have received a dose of the vaccine, according to Reuters.