'Significant' problems linked to Sinovac vaccine in other countries: MOH official

·Assistant News Editor
·2-min read
Director of medical services Kenneth Mak addresses reporters at a virtual press conference aby the multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19 (PHOTO: Ministry of Communications and Information)
Director of medical services Kenneth Mak addresses reporters at a virtual press conference aby the multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19 (PHOTO: Ministry of Communications and Information)

SINGAPORE — There is a significant risk of "vaccine breakthrough" with the Sinovac vaccine, or CoronaVac, with international evidence showing that many who had taken it were later infected with COVID-19, said the Ministry of Health's (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak on Friday (18 June).

Addressing reporters at a virtual media briefing by the multi-ministry taskforce on the coronavirus, Associate Professor Kenneth Mak said that Singapore has been assessing the experience of countries such as Indonesia, which has vaccinated a "larger proportion" of the population using CoronaVac.

Alluding to recent reports that more than 350 doctors and medical workers in Indonesia were infected with COVID-19 despite being vaccinated with CoronaVac, Associate Professor Mak noted, "It's not a problem associated with Pfizer. This is actually a problem associated with the Sinovac vaccine, and in other countries, they are now starting to think about booster vaccinations, even six months out from an original vaccination for some of these vaccines as well.

"So it does give the impression that the efficacy of different vaccines will vary quite significantly," said Prof Mak, stressing that Singapore has "great confidence" in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, of which more than 4.7 million doses have so far been administered in the country. 

Prof Mak was responding to a question on whether Singapore intends to introduce the Sinovac vaccine into its national vaccination programme. On Wednesday, 24 healthcare institutions were licensed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to provide the Sinovac vaccine to those who wish to take it.

The 24 institutions were selected under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act (PHMCA) to be licensed providers under the Special Access Route (SAR). A number of the approved institutions have been seeing long queues of individuals forming at their premises, with some saying their telephones lines have been ringing non-stop in recent days, according to local media reports.

Sinovac remains unregistered and is not authorised by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), and is to be provided only under the SAR framework. As such, it will not be covered under the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (VIFAP) meant for the national vaccination programme.

Prof Mak noted that there still is some "outstanding data" on the vaccine that Sinovac has not provided to HSA, which is required to give "complete assurance" about its quality and safety profile. "We look forward, if data becomes available for us, then to (commence) this process of evaluation but unfortunately we're not able to do so."

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