Singapore to allow alternative COVID-19 vaccines for use by private sector

(PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
(PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE – To enhance Singapore's overall vaccine coverage and offer more flexibility, the government will allow private healthcare providers here to import and administer alternative COVID-19 vaccines via Special Access Routes (SARs).

In a press release on Monday (31 May), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that there has been interest in accessing alternate vaccines used in other countries, largely due to medical reasons that prevent individuals here from taking the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines currently authorised for use in Singapore.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who co-chairs the multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19, noted that while other vaccines have been used abroad, there have either been no applications to use those vaccines in Singapore, or the application is outstanding with data still pending.

"These vaccines can be useful for individuals who are unable to take (the two available) vaccines due to medical reasons," said Ong, who was speaking at a virtual press conference. He noted that there are more than 30,000 such individuals.

Under the SAR, private healthcare providers in Singapore can import unregistered medicines to address unmet medical needs. The MOH noted that the alternative COVID-19 vaccines to be brought in under the SAR have been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and are in the WHO's Emergency Use Listing (EUL). They include, among others, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Sinopharm.

The SAR, said Ong, is an existing avenue to import and supply, unregistered medicines to address medical needs in unique or special circumstances. "This is for a limited duration, and only during a pandemic."

The minister added, "As and when the WHO approves the Sinovac vaccine into its Emergency Use List, the licensed health care institution can apply to MOH to draw on our existing stock of 200,000 doses to administer to those who wish to have it."

Doctors looking to use vaccines that are not registered or authorised by the HSA should discuss the risks and benefits with their patients and reach a joint, informed decision, said MOH. Patients taking up such vaccines will also need to sign a consent form to acknowledge their acceptance of such risks.

Additionally, vaccines imported under the SAR will not be subsidised and those taking them will not be eligible for the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme for COVID-19 Vaccination.

As more data becomes available, the MOH will be able to determine if persons vaccinated under the SAR may be eligible for the same exemptions on testing, or public health restrictions, which may be accorded to individuals vaccinated under the national programme.

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