Fully vaccinated status of about 1,000 people who took non-mRNA jabs expected to have expired by deadline
SINGAPORE: Among those who completed their primary course of COVID-19 vaccination with non-mRNA vaccines, about 1,000 had not taken their booster jab as of Feb 9 and would have had their fully vaccinated status expire by Feb 14.
Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary gave these figures in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 15), in response to questions by MP Yip Hon Weng (PAP-Yio Chu Kang).
It was previously announced that from Feb 14, those aged 18 and above will have to take a booster shot within 270 days of completing their primary vaccination series in order to maintain their fully vaccinated status.
For people who received the Sinovac vaccine as part of a three-dose primary vaccination series, they should receive an mRNA vaccine as their booster dose, the Health Ministry stated.
Those who are medically ineligible to receive the mRNA vaccine can get the Sinovac shot as their booster dose under the national vaccination programme, Dr Puthucheary said.
This is only for people aged 18 and above, he added, as the vaccine manufacturer did not include children and adolescents when filing for interim authorisation of the vaccine under the Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR).
"Both Sinovac-CoronaVac and the Sinopharm vaccines are also not currently recommended for routine use in persons aged below 18 years of age by the World Health Organization," Dr Puthucheary added.
DEDICATED PROGRAMME FOR SINOVAC VACCINE
Nevertheless, limited data from Sinovac's early Phase I and II trials in young people aged three to 17 do not show safety concerns, Dr Puthucheary said.
The Health Ministry has therefore introduced a dedicated programme - Sinovac after mRNA (SAM) - outside the national vaccination programme to offer the Sinovac vaccine to people aged 12 to 17 who are medically ineligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine, he said.
This is to give them some level of protection against COVID-19 while closely monitoring their safety, Dr Puthucheary said. SAM is therefore part of a research study, he added.
In January, the programme was further extended to eligible children aged five to 11, after the data from the older age group indicated that the safety profile of the vaccine was generally consistent with that of vaccines used in immunisation against other diseases, he said.
Dr Puthucheary was responding to questions from MP Gerald Giam (WP-Aljunied), who asked about the thinking behind not making the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines generally available to children and adolescents.
Mr Giam also asked whether the ministry plans to make at least one non-mRNA vaccine generally available to children under 18 in order to maximise the vaccination rate of the Singapore population.
Dr Puthucheary said the Health Ministry is working to bring in other vaccine options for those who are medically ineligible for mRNA ones.
He noted Singapore's recent approval of the Novavax non-mRNA vaccine, for people aged 18 and above.
Responding to MP Dennis Tan's (WP-Hougang) question on whether the minister has found any data to support or reject Novavax's use in children below the age of 12, Dr Puthucheary cited a late-stage trial in the United States where the vaccine was found to be 80 per cent effective against COVID-19 in adolescents aged 12 to 17.
"HSA and MOH will evaluate the data from this study and will continue to monitor for more data on its efficacy and safety in children and adolescents," he added.
“We hope that the initial doses of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Singapore within a matter of months, provided that there are no disruptions to the shipment schedule,” Dr Puthucheary said.
“Meanwhile, those who are medically eligible are encouraged to take the available mRNA vaccines as they offer more optimal protection."