SINGAPORE: The Sinovac-CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine will be included in Singapore's national vaccination programme as a three-dose regime, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Saturday (Oct 23).
This follows the Health Sciences Authority's (HSA) decision to grant it interim authorisation under the Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR).
The Health Ministry noted that while local vaccination rates are high – at more than 90 per cent in eligible age groups - there are some who choose not to take up mRNA vaccines due to "strong personal preferences".
"To ensure that everyone will have reasonably good protection against COVID-19, we will offer the three-dose primary series regime of Sinovac-CoronaVac under the national vaccination programme to those who have not completed their full course of vaccination, including persons who had only received one or two doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac previously," said MOH.
Due to the lower vaccine efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine, MOH set out the following guidelines:
- People who received only one or two doses of the Sinovac vaccine are "strongly encouraged" to complete three doses for "more optimal protection".
- People who are unable to take any dose of the mRNA vaccines due to medical reasons should receive three doses of the Sinovac vaccine.
- Those who started with mRNA vaccines but developed allergies of severe adverse reactions after the first dose should follow up with two doses of Sinovac. If the allergic reaction happened after the second mRNA dose, then they should take one more dose of Sinovac as their booster jab when they become eligible for one.
As recommended by the expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination, those who can take mRNA vaccines should continue to take two doses of that, said MOH.
The Sinovac vaccine will also not be offered as a booster to those who already received two doses of an mRNA vaccine and did not develop allergies or severe adverse reactions. For this group, a third dose of mRNA vaccine will be offered to them as the booster.
SINOVAC FOR YOUNGER PEOPLE
MOH also noted that the Sinovac vaccine has not been approved for general use for people aged 12 to 17.
"This is not in the application from Sinovac and is also consistent with WHO’s approved use under the Emergency Use Listing," said the ministry.
"However, for those in this age band who are medically ineligible to complete a full two-dose regime of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty mRNA vaccines, we will offer a three-dose primary series using Sinovac-CoronaVac under a dedicated public health programme."
These individuals will be "closely monitored" by trained medical personnel under this public health programme, given that the use of the Sinovac vaccine in people under the age of 18 was not included in HSA’s PSAR interim authorisation.
The ministry will get in touch with eligible individuals in this age group on how they can receive the vaccine safely.
Under the national vaccination programme, the Sinovac vaccine will be administered for free. People who received this vaccine will also be eligible for payouts under the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme if they experience serious side effects that are assessed to be related to COVID-19 vaccines.
With Sinovac being a three-dose regime under the national programme, MOH said adjustments will be made to the vaccination status of those who have taken two doses of the vaccine, considering that there is an interval of 90 days between the second and third doses.
Therefore, people who have taken two doses of Sinovac will be considered fully vaccinated for four months after the second dose, or until Dec 31, 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," said the ministry.
"For travellers, we recognise that many may have taken only two doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac in their home country, and we will regard those with two doses as vaccinated, but only for a limited period of 30 days."
In a separate press release, HSA noted that the decision to grant the Sinovac vaccine interim authorisation under PSAR took into consideration that the vaccine met the "minimum technical requirements" for use during a pandemic, given "urgent public needs".
"As PSAR is only an interim authorisation, the company is required to submit the complete dataset based on prevailing international standards to obtain a full registration," the agency added."HSA will continue to actively review evolving vaccine effectiveness and safety data to ensure that the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh the known risks. The PSAR interim authorisation may also be terminated at any time; for example, if new data suggest that the benefits no longer outweigh the risks."
A BOOSTER UPDATE
Giving an update of Singapore's vaccination booster programme, MOH said that as of Friday, 655,029 people have received their booster dose.
For those who are 50 to 59 years old, 82 per cent who are eligible have either booked an appointment or already received their booster dose. The figure stands at 79 per cent for those who are aged 60 and above.
MOH noted that since Oct 9, it started booster vaccinations for healthcare and frontline workers who were fully vaccinated about six months ago.
"We have also started inviting persons aged 30 years and above who completed their primary series vaccination regimen around six months ago to make an appointment for their booster dose," the ministry added.
"As of Oct 21, we have invited about 190,000 persons aged 30 to 49 years to book an appointment for their booster dose, and about 138,000 (or 72 per cent of those invited) have since booked an appointment."
Watch the full news conference by the multi-ministry task force and subsequent Q&A session with journalists: