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Singapore approves updated Pfizer vaccine targeting newer COVID-19 variants

Singapore approves updated Pfizer vaccine targeting newer COVID-19 variants

A nurse displays a vial of the Comirnaty by BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination centre in Berlin, Germany, Jan 1, 2022. (File photo: Reuters/Michele Tantussi)

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said on Friday (Sep 15) that it has authorised a COVID-19 vaccine updated by Pfizer to tackle currently circulating and emerging variants of the disease.

This updated, monovalent version of the Comirnaty jab is aimed at the Omicron XBB.1.5 sublineage which also includes EG.5 or Eris and BA.2.86.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said Singapore's Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination was reviewing data on the vaccine and would give recommendations soon. 

Stocks should arrive by end-October, he added, noting that the updated vaccine - unlike a previous bivalent one - does not target the original strain of the coronavirus, which is no longer circulating widely in the community.

HSA said that in reviewing - and ultimately approving - the updated vaccine, it considered data accrued from previous versions of Comirnaty shots, as well as information showing that it could enhance immune responses against the newly predominant Omicron subvariants.

The authority said it would monitor and review the evolving data on effectiveness and safety, to ensure the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh the known risks.

HSA's announcement comes after the United States on Monday approved updated COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, also designed to target currently circulating Omicron subvariants.

Last month, in response to queries from CNA on the rise of the Eris variant in the US, Singapore's Health Ministry said it would continue to ensure available stocks of updated COVID-19 vaccines "if necessary and appropriate for the local situation".

Earlier in August, the ministry said about 18 per cent of COVID-19 community cases in Singapore were infected with Eris.

HSA on Friday stressed that the updated vaccine would ensure continued protection as the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolves.

"As ... new variants emerge, regular updating of approved COVID-19 vaccines would be necessary to ensure the continued effectiveness of the vaccines," the agency added.

"This approach is not new and has been established for seasonal influenza vaccines which are updated every six months."

Mr Ong, the minister, used his social media post to also urge Singaporeans - in particular the elderly - to get vaccinated once a year.

He said Singapore's vaccination take-up rate was falling, "which means over time, our protection against COVID-19 will weaken".

"The virus has not gotten milder, it is we who have gotten stronger, through vaccinations and safe recovery from infections," said Mr Ong.

Source: CNA/jo(gs)


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