Coronavirus: Hong Kong inquest returns open verdict on death of man 2 days after Covid-19 jab

·4-min read

A Hong Kong inquest has returned an open verdict in the case of a chronically ill man who died two days after receiving his first dose of China’s Sinovac vaccine.

Friday’s ruling meant the jury rejected a pathologist’s conclusion the man’s death was a “coincidental event”, and held that the fatal lung episode that killed him was caused by unknown conditions other than his existing heart problem.

Fire safety consultant Timble Li Yu-kun was among the first recipients of a Sinovac shot after the Beijing-based firm’s doses arrived in Hong Kong on February 19.

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

The obese 63-year-old, who had heart disease, was immunised at a government-designated vaccination site at Kwun Chung Sports Centre in Jordan on February 26, the first day of the city’s immunisation drive.

Timble Li had received his Sinovac jab at the Kwun Chung Sports Centre in Jordan (pictured). Photo: Felix Wong
Timble Li had received his Sinovac jab at the Kwun Chung Sports Centre in Jordan (pictured). Photo: Felix Wong

He died hours after he was hospitalised with shortness of breath in the early hours of February 28. A postmortem examination listed the cause of death as acute pulmonary congestion induced by obstruction to the coronary arteries.

The court heard during the seven-day proceedings that Li had given his consent for vaccination in a checklist which warned that “patients with uncontrolled severe chronic illnesses” should not get the dose. The document, however, did not define the categorisation.

The jury suggested the Department of Health make further elaborations on the types of people unsuitable for vaccination, such as those suffering an unknown level of diabetes or coronary disease, in a pamphlet distributed to recipients before inoculation.

The checklist should also require recipients to indicate whether and what kind of chronic illnesses they were experiencing, so that doctors could make appropriate assessment before the jab, the jury added.

All the members of an expert government committee monitoring adverse reactions to vaccines agreed that Li’s death was a “coincidental event” under World Health Organization classifications. They found Li showed no symptoms of hypersensitivity that could have been connected with the shot.

The pathologist, along with an independent pharmacologist and cardiologist, all agreed that Li had displayed signs of a heart attack at least two weeks before he was admitted to hospital, and his smoking habits, obesity and chronic illnesses made him vulnerable to an acute condition.

The pharmacologist, however, acknowledged that the jab could have been the “last straw” for the patient with recurring heart problems.

Man’s death after Sinovac jab was ‘coincidental event’, Hong Kong inquest told

In her instructions to the jurors, Coroner Monica Chow Wai-choo said they should return a verdict of death by natural causes regardless of whether they found the vaccine had accelerated Li’s death, so long as they accepted the medical experts’ findings that his death could not have been prevented by medical intervention.

Only if the jury rejected the experts’ evidence, and found that the acute pulmonary congestion experienced by Li was induced by other unknown conditions should they return an open verdict, she added.

A spokesman for the health department said it would thoroughly study the jury’s recommendations.

The mainland China-made Sinovac vaccine is currently approved for emergency use in 42 jurisdictions around the world. Some 1.8 billion doses had been supplied as of the end of August, according to the company.

As of Thursday, 3.34 million Sinovac doses had been administered in the city. Most of the recipients were middle-aged and elderly.

The Department of Health has recorded 47 reports of deaths within 14 days of the patient receiving Covid-19 shots, but none has been found to be related to the jab.

The efficacy and safety of the Sinovac vaccine were questioned at the beginning of the vaccination programme. The global health body did not approve the vaccine for emergency use until June, more than three months after the city launched its drive.

Medical experts have repeatedly said inactivated vaccines – the Sinovac jab is one – are very safe given decades of experience in their use.

Overseas studies have found that while the vaccine induces a lower level of antibodies it is effective in reducing severe conditions and deaths linked to Covid-19.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Cheung

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Coronavirus: Hong Kong inquest returns open verdict on death of man 2 days after Covid-19 jab first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting