Amid demand for Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines, some Singapore healthcare firms looking at importing more non-mRNA shots
SINGAPORE: At least two private healthcare institutions are considering bringing in more vaccines, including China's Sinovac and Sinopharm shots, following a surge in demand for non-mRNA vaccines.
StarMed Specialist Centre, which has been approved to administer the Government's stock of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines, told CNA on Wednesday (Jun 23) that it was working with another clinic to import more doses of Sinovac as well as other vaccine brands such as Sinopharm.
“We’re just seeing a lot of demand for these vaccines that are approved under the (special access route) that are non-mRNA based and at this stage, it’s really just exploratory, to understand whether it's possible, and what are the regulatory and logistic hurdles that are involved in bringing in these vaccines,” said the centre’s chief executive officer Dr Louis Tan.
The other clinic - one of the 24 clinics approved to administer the Sinovac shots - has declined to be named, citing concerns such as being inundated with queries.
Last week, several clinics were flooded with hundreds of enquiries about the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine, after MOH released its list of approved clinics to administer the shots.
At least four healthcare institutions including StarMed Specialist Centre, have started administering the shots.
Dr Tan said his centre is currently administering around 80 doses a day and has vaccinated more than 200 patients since it received its first shipment of Sinovac shots last Friday. The second shipment of 200 doses arrived on Monday.
“We’re going to keep at this (pace) for a while, then maybe a month later, we’ll step it up to 120 doses a day,” he said.
“The rationale is because a month later is when people need to start coming in for the second dose so ... if I can only take in 80 vaccinations per day, it would mean that - one month later - I won't be able to vaccinate new patients anymore.”
He added that more than 4,000 people have scheduled vaccination appointments at the centre, with bookings running up to the end of September.
READ: Some Singapore private healthcare providers consider offering Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine after WHO approval
Thomson Wellth Clinic, which also received its first shipment of Sinovac vaccines last Friday, said it has been managing appointment bookings for more than 1,500 individuals who registered their interest to receive the Sinovac vaccine.
It said it is able to administer about 150 vaccinations a day and has vaccinated about 400 people so far.
“The clinic has a large seating area which can accommodate high throughput, with adequate safe-distancing measures in place, as such, the clinic is able to comfortably accept walk-in patients and if we have spare capacity, they can receive their vaccinations on the spot,” said Thomson Medical spokesperson.
“We are prepared to extend our operating hours to meet demand, if necessary.”
REPORTING SIDE EFFECTS FROM SINOVAC VACCINES
Clinics CNA spoke to said they had a reporting protocol in place to document data related to the Sinovac vaccine. This includes collecting data on serious adverse side effects from the vaccine.
READ: 0.13% of total COVID-19 vaccine doses administered reported to have suspected adverse effects: HSA
Ms Serena Wee, chief executive of Icon Cancer Centre Farrer Park, told CNA that a dedicated phone line has been set up for patient to report any reactions from the vaccine.
To date, the centre has received only one report from a patient who developed a rash after the injection, said Ms Wee, adding that the case has been recorded and reported to MOH.
Thomson Wellth Clinic and StarMed Specialist Centre told CNA that they have not observed any serious reactions, such as anaphylaxis, so far.
CNA has contacted MOH and the Health Sciences Authority for more information on the alternative vaccines being imported through the special access route and the healthcare institutions that have applied for them.