SINGAPORE — Eight months after Singapore received its first doses of the Sinovac-CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine, it will now be included in the National Vaccination Programme (NVP) as an alternative for those who are medically unable or unwilling to take mRNA vaccines.
Announcing this at a virtual press conference on Saturday (23 October), the multi-ministry taskforce (MTF) added that it will be given in three doses. However, it will be not offered as a booster to those who had already completed two doses of mRNA vaccine and did not develop allergies or severe adverse reactions.
Noting that some continue to choose not to take up mRNA vaccinations due to "strong personal preferences", the Ministry of Health (MOH) added that it will also offer the three-dose regime of Sinovac-CoronaVac to those who have not completed their full course of vaccination.
This includes persons who had only received one or two doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac previously, and is to ensure that everyone will have "reasonably good protection" against the coronavirus. In July, those who received it were still being excluded from Singapore's count of total vaccinations, with officials citing inadequate efficacy data, especially against the contagious Delta variant.
The announcement follows the Health Sciences Authority's (HSA) interim authorisation of the vaccine under the Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR).
It was previously only available at selected healthcare institutions for a fee. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who co-chairs the MTF, told reporters at a virtual briefing that those who had previously paid to receive Sinovac-CoronaVac will not be able to obtain refunds.
In June, director of medical services Kenneth Mak noted that there is 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.
However, given the relatively lower vaccine efficacy of Sinovac-CoronoVac compared with mRNA vaccines, the following guidance will apply:
Persons who can take the mRNA vaccines should continue to take two doses to complete their primary series regime
Persons who had received only one or two doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac to date, are strongly encouraged to complete a three-dose primary series regime with mRNA vaccines as it offers more optimal protection
Persons who are unable to take mRNA vaccines due to medical reasons, should receive three doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac in total to complete their primary series regime.
Persons who started vaccination with mRNA vaccines but developed allergies or severe adverse reactions after the first dose, should complete a three-dose primary series regime with two more doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac
If the allergic reaction happens after the second dose of mRNA vaccine, then he/she should take one more dose of Sinovac-CoronaVac as their booster when they are eligible
From Wednesday, invitations have been sent via text to those aged 18 and above, who are medically ineligible for mRNA vaccines due to allergies or severe adverse reactions after their first dose, to receive Sinovac-CoronaVac doses to complete their three-dose regime.
The vaccine will be administered at Raffles City Convention Centre, 11 selected Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs), and a list of approved private clinics.
Vaccination status adjusted
Health authorities also clarified that all who have taken two doses of Sinovac-Coronavac will be regarded as fully vaccinated for four months after the second dose, or till 31 December 2021, whichever is later.
This arrangement will provide enough time for individuals to get their third doses and maintain their vaccination status. The same rule will apply to those who had received two doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.
For travellers who may have taken only two doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac in their home country will be regarded as vaccinated, but only for a limited period of 30 days.
However, Sinovac-CoronaVac has not been approved for general use for individuals aged 12 to 17 years, in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s approved use under the Emergency Use Listing.
Nevertheless, for those in this age band who are medically ineligible to take mRNA vaccines, a three-dose primary series using Sinovac-CoronaVac will be offered under a dedicated public health programme. Those eligible will be contacted by health authorities.
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