COVID-19: Sinovac recipients need to undergo pre-event testing – MOH

A health worker pumps China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine with a syringe at a vaccination site in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on June 1, 2021. (PHOTO: Xinhua via Getty Images)
A health worker pumps China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine with a syringe at a vaccination site in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on June 1, 2021. (PHOTO: Xinhua via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Recipients of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine will still have to undergo pre-event testing, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Wednesday (30 June).

This is because the Chinese-made vaccine, also known as CoronaVac, is not part of the national vaccination programme, which only includes vaccines with sufficient data on their protection against the virus.

To date, only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines have been approved for use in Singapore's national vaccination drive.

Vaccines imported under the special access route will not be subsidised, and those taking them will also not be eligible for the vaccine injury financial assistance programme for COVID-19 vaccination.

"Doctors are required to inform their patients receiving vaccines under the Special Access Route (SAR) that they may not be regarded in the same manner as those vaccinated under our national programme, so that their patients can weigh the risk versus benefits of proceeding with vaccination using such SAR vaccines," said MOH in reply to media queries on Wednesday.

"COVID-19 vaccines that are not part of our national vaccination programme may not have documented sufficient data on their protection against COVID-19 infection, especially against the Delta variant that is currently circulating," the ministry added.

The authorities earlier this month announced that the Sinovac vaccine can be administered under the special access route for private healthcare providers, a day after it was approved for emergency use by the World Health Organisation.

Singapore received 200,000 doses of the vaccine with a shelf life of two years earlier this year, having signed advanced purchase agreements with its manufacturer late last year. However, it was not approved for use pending further data from the manufacturer.

Two weeks ago, MOH announced that 24 private healthcare providers had been licensed to provide the Sinovac vaccine, which the ministry released to them at no cost. Recipients will need to pay between $10 and $25 per dose, including a consultation fee and 7 per cent GST.

Speaking at a multi-ministry taskforce press conference on 18 June, MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak also warned of a significant risk of "vaccine breakthrough" with the Sinovac vaccine, with international evidence showing that many who had taken it were later infected with COVID-19.

"It's not a problem associated with Pfizer. This is actually a problem associated with the Sinovac vaccine, and in other countries, they are now starting to think about booster vaccinations, even six months out from an original vaccination for some of these vaccines as well. So it does give the impression that the efficacy of different vaccines will vary quite significantly," he said.

Noting that outstanding data has yet to be provided to the Health Sciences Authority, he added, "We look forward, if data becomes available for us, then to (commence) this process of evaluation but unfortunately we're not able to do so."

Despite the Sinovac vaccine not given regulatory approval, it has attracted strong demand among a number of people who had formed queues outside the private clinics offering it in recent days. According to media reports, some prefer the technology behind Sinovac, which uses an inactivated virus, unlike other mRNA vaccines.

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