Singapore ready to secure booster vaccines for Omicron subvariants

Singapore's position with Pfizer and Moderna will allow the country to receive the booster vaccines when they are ready. ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

SINGAPORE - Singapore is ready to bring in booster vaccines for Omicron subvariants that are fast becoming the dominant variants here should they be approved, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

A spokesman for the ministry said in response to queries from The Straits Times: "MOH, the Health Sciences Authority and the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination are reviewing the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 booster vaccines that will also target the Omicron variant.

"Arrangements are in place to secure supplies should these be recommended for use."

A report last month said Moderna had released results showing that its updated booster vaccine protects well against the latest subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

These subvariants make up about half of Singapore's Covid-19 cases, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told Parliament last Tuesday (July 5), adding that he expects them to account for 70 per cent to 80 per cent of cases in the coming week.

According to a report in The New York Times last month, the United States Food and Drug Administration recommended that manufacturers produce a so-called bivalent vaccine targeting BA.4 and BA.5 along with the original coronavirus. It added that a match between current variants and the updated booster could provide stronger and more durable protection against whatever is in greater circulation months from now.

The report also said Pfizer had previously said a shot aimed at the chosen subvariants could be ready for use in early October, while Moderna had projected availability by late October or early November.

On Tuesday, Mr Ong explained Singapore's position with the two companies that will allow the country to receive the vaccines when ready.

He said: "As of now, our contracts with both pharmaceutical companies do allow us to accept shipment and implement them when ready - probably by the end of the year, if they are approved, if the data shows it's all right and we receive the shipment.

"But, I should add... do not wait for this (vaccine), and hold back taking your booster... The current formulation works very well in preventing you from falling very sick, so do not delay taking your booster."

He added that 60,000 seniors aged 60 and above have not taken their first booster or third shot, and urged them to do so.

The MOH spokesman said last Thursday there is currently no evidence that the infectious period for BA.4 or BA.5 is different from the earlier Omicron variants, and that all those who test positive for Covid-19 should adhere to existing healthcare protocols.

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