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People with allergic reactions to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines can take Sinovac shots, will be considered fully vaccinated

People with allergic reactions to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines can take Sinovac shots, will be considered fully vaccinated

Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine is provided in Singapore only under the Special Access Route framework (Photo: AFP)

SINGAPORE: People who suffered allergic reactions after receiving the first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine have been invited to take the Sinovac vaccine, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said in Parliament on Monday (Aug 2).

People who receive COVID-19 jabs in such a manner will be considered fully vaccinated.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has established a public health programme for these people to be vaccinated at clinics in public hospitals for closer monitoring, given their previous allergic reaction, said Dr Puthucheary.

READ: 4 out of 155,000 people vaccinated had severe allergic reactions, all have recovered

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which were approved for use in the national programme, use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. This teaches cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.

This is different from the Sinovac vaccine, known as CoronaVac, which uses unreactive coronavirus particles that have been killed to stimulate the body’s antibody protection. The Sinovac vaccine is currently allowed to be administered in Singapore under the special access route, after it was approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr Puthucheary was responding to MP Gerald Giam (WP-Aljunied) who asked how individuals who have allergic reactions to their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to attain fully vaccinated status.

In response to media queries, MOH said on Monday night that those who have received one dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine but are "medically unable" to receive a second dose due to allergic reactions may choose to wait for the non-mRNA vaccines that the ministry plans to bring in for use in the national vaccination programme.

If such individuals wish to receive the Sinovac vaccine under the special access route, they can do so through the dedicated programme, said MOH in its clarification. This programme was established at the start of July for them to be vaccinated at a public hospital for closer monitoring of any side effects.

This is in consideration of their previous allergic reaction and a lack of data on the safety profile of receiving the Sinovac vaccine after one dose of an mRNA vaccine. 

These people will receive two doses of the Sinovac vaccine, said MOH. 

As of Jul 28, MOH has contacted about 5,000 such individuals. Of these, more than 2,000 of them have indicated their interest in the programme. 

"In view that the persons participating in the programme would have received three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, they will be regarded as being fully vaccinated. 

"MOH will work with these individuals to monitor their immunity responses, and better understand such heterologous vaccination strategies," said the Health Ministry.

READ: Sinovac vaccine recipients excluded from national tally; 'little data' on efficacy against new COVID-19 variants

NOVAVAX VACCINE

Responding to another question from Mr Giam on the progress of the regulatory approval for the Novavax vaccine, Dr Puthucheary said that those who are allergic to the mRNA vaccines may also choose to wait for the Novavax vaccine that MOH has procured and expects to be delivered by the end of the year.

MOH and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) are working closely with Novavax to facilitate the regulatory submission for their vaccine, he said.

Singapore authorities had signed an advance purchase agreement with Novavax for its vaccine - a non-mRNA vaccine that has demonstrated high efficacy against the COVID-19 virus - in January this year.

“The review timeline will depend on the availability and submission of data by the company to HSA. While we recognise the need to facilitate timely access to the vaccine, there should be no compromise on the scientific rigour of the assessment of their quality, safety, and efficacy,” he said.

Responding to a question on vaccination for short-term visit pass holders from MP He Ting Ru (WP-Sengkang), Dr Puthucheary said that the Government is “reviewing how short-term pass holders, such as those who are more vulnerable and who have been in Singapore on an extended basis due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, may receive vaccinations”.

Currently, the national vaccination programme covers those who make Singapore their home or who are here for an extended period of time, he noted, adding that more details will be announced at a later time.

He also gave an update on the vaccination of seniors in response to other questions. Seventy-nine per cent of those aged 70 and above have been vaccinated with at least one dose, he said.

While more seniors are coming forward to be vaccinated, with about 1,000 seniors signing up for their first dose each day, “we have to continue encouraging our seniors to get vaccinated because they are the most vulnerable to serious illness”, he said.

The proportion of seniors aged 70 and above who have not booked a vaccination appointment is six percentage points more than the general population, he said.

“We will continue to reach out to as many seniors as possible and encourage them to get vaccinated,” he said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said people who suffered allergic reactions after the first dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine have been invited to take a Sinovac jab as a second dose. MOH has since clarified that they will take two doses of the Sinovac vaccine, after which they will be considered fully vaccinated.

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Source: CNA/ja(ac)

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