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New bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine doses expected to be available in Singapore by end-Sep: Moderna

Over time, the original vaccine will no longer be available, Moderna said.

SINGAPORE: Moderna’s new bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine is expected to be available in Singapore by end of this month.

“We hope to have hundreds of thousands of doses available in Singapore before the end of the month,” the pharmaceutical firm’s senior vice president of commercial vaccines Patrick Bergstedt told CNA on Wednesday (Sep 14).

His comments came after the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) announced that it granted interim authorisation for Moderna’s Spikevax Bivalent Original/Omicron jab, the first bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine in the country.

Official vaccination recommendations using this booster will be issued by the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination and the Ministry of Health (MOH) in due time, HSA said.

Moderna, which set up a subsidiary in Singapore to support the delivery of mRNA vaccines, is transferring all its manufacturing capacity over to the new updated vaccine, Mr Bergstedt added.

“Over time, the original vaccine will no longer be available. It will be replaced by this new updated bivalent vaccine,” he said.

He gave assurance that Moderna’s original COVID-19 vaccine continues to offer protection, but noted that the level of protection wanes.

“Because it was not specifically designed against the Omicron variant, that level of protection is not going to be as durable, as broad, as what the new updated vaccine provides,” he said.

The newly approved booster vaccine contains the original COVID-19 virus and the BA.1 Omicron variant, but Moderna is already in “very advanced” stages of the next vaccine, he said.

The upcoming vaccine will contain Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 – which led to a recent COVID-19 wave in the country – and the original virus, he said.

“The timing and availability of that vaccine will depend very much on the regulatory authorisation in Singapore,” he said.

Singapore will also be bringing in the bivalent vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said earlier this week

EVOLVING VACCINES

Infectious diseases specialist at Farrer Park Hospital, Dr Loh Jiashen, said that there is a possibility that COVID-19 vaccines may evolve to target more than one variant.

“If variants of great impact emerge, I think vaccine companies may potentially go in that direction and subsequent vaccines may be even more than two-valent,” he said.

Omicron has had a wide global sweeping impact and hence there was a specific vaccine targeted against it, he noted.

He added, however, that such vaccines are not new, giving the example of the influenza vaccine, which is updated twice a year.

“We may potentially … reach a stage like an influenza vaccine where the most updated circulating variants are the ones in the vaccine. Certainly, that would be a viable strategy,” he said.

The challenge would be for the pharmaceutical companies to ramp up production to keep up with such updates, he said.

CURRENT COVID-19 SITUATION

Dr Asok Kurup, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital who spoke on CNA938’s Asia First, said that those who are at lower risk may want to wait for the approved bivalent booster.

“If you're the highest risk individual and time is ticking, you need to be protected as soon as possible, go for whatever is on hand. You don't have to wait for this,” he said.

Dr Kurup gave an overview of the current COVID-19 situation in Singapore.

While COVID-19 continues to be a “clear and present danger”, the general public is quite well protected against COVID-19 with the safeguards in place and “don’t have to be too alarmed”, he said.

“I think we have ringfenced it to those who are mostly immune compromised,” he said.

“We have to get to know who are those in our neighbourhood, our friends and family who are immune compromised to make sure they are protected because the vulnerable are the ones who truly have … the raw end of the stick and we have to do whatever we can to protect them.”

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Source: CNA/ja(dn)

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