[The Standard] Call to play it safe on baby jabs


Hong Kong should wait for more data before deciding whether to use the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children aged between six months and five years, says a hospital pharmacist.

US regulators are considering the first Covid vaccine for children under the age of five, after Pfizer and BioNTech began the approval process.

A decision is expected as soon as this month.

Speaking on a radio program yesterday, Society of Hospital Pharmacists president William Chui Chun-ming said local authorities can take their time and play safe as the pandemic situation in Hong Kong is not as severe as in America.

In Hong Kong, parents can make reservations from Wednesday for children aged between five and 11 to receive the BioNTech vaccine from February 16. A child's dosage is one-third of an adult's.

Chui said data is inadequate to prove the safety of jabs for the very young and that Hong Kong should first monitor the US situation.

He said Merck's oral antiviral treatment for Covid will arrive in Hong Kong as soon as next month, though it is less effective in reducing severe symptoms and the risk of death compared to the Pfizer brand, which is set to arrive later.

Both oral pills proved to be effective against the Omicron and Delta variants and are suitable for those who have slight to medium levels of symptoms or those who face risks of deterioration and hospitalization.

Merck's effectiveness in lowering risks of hospitalization and deaths is only 30 percent, while for Pfizer it is 88 percent, Chui added.

A five-day course of oral medicine costs around HK$3,000. Patients can take the medicine at home instead of staying in hospital, making the situation more comfortable for them while helping reduce demand for hospital beds.

Side effects of Merck's medicine include nausea, tiredness and headache while Pfizer's include diarrhea, hypertension and muscle pain.

Patients with kidney and liver diseases have to be extra cautious when using the medicine, he said.

Meanwhile, 12 community vaccination centers resumed service yesterday. Those at HKU CVC in Gleneagles Hospital in Wong Chuk Hang and the CUHK Medical Centre in Sha Tin will resume service today.

As of 8pm last night, more than 5.35 million people have taken at least one jab - 79.5 percent of the population - and over 4.81 million have received two doses 71.5 percent. More than 969,000 people got the booster shot.



[文章轉載The Standard 04/02/2022 連結]