SINGAPORE - China's Sinopharm vaccine could soon be made available in Singapore, with several private healthcare groups already taking steps to secure doses of the jab.
This will likely see it becoming the fourth Covid-19 vaccine available here, as the country ramps up nationwide vaccination rates in order to ease restrictions on social gatherings and get the economy back to normal.
IHH Healthcare Singapore told The Straits Times that the Health Sciences Authority has given approval for it to import the Sinopharm vaccine under the Special Access Route framework.
"This will give people in Singapore access to another... vaccine option," said Dr Noel Yeo, the group's chief operating officer.
"Details are still being worked out at the moment. We will make a formal announcement when more information becomes available."
Separately, Raffles Medical Group has put up a Facebook post asking people to register their interest in the Chinese vaccine, which uses an inactivated virus to elicit protection against Covid-19.
A spokesman for the group said it has also received HSA approval, and plans to start administering the first doses in August.
The Special Access Route framework allows private healthcare groups to bring in Covid-19 vaccines that have been put on the World Health Organisation's (WHO) emergency-use listing. These include China's Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines, as well as those made by Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca.
The authorities have also signed advance purchase agreements with American biotechnology company Novavax to secure its protein-based Covid-19 vaccine, with supplies possibly arriving before the end of the year. If approved, it will be part of the national vaccine programme.
Unlike vaccines administered under the Pandemic Special Access Route framework - such as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs under the national vaccination programme - Special Access Route vaccines are not subsidised by the Government.
They are also not covered under the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme, which supports people who suffer adverse effects from their Covid-19 jabs.
To date, Singapore has vaccinated 4.3 million people under the national vaccination programme. Roughly three-quarters have completed the full vaccination regimen.
As at Monday (July 26), private healthcare groups had also administered 89,047 doses of the Sinovac vaccine.
The Sinopharm vaccine is administered in two doses given three to four weeks apart. It is approved for use in those aged 18 and above.
According to the WHO, a large, multi-country phase three trial showed that the vaccine is 79 per cent effective against symptomatic disease two weeks after the second dose. It was also reported to be 79 per cent effective against hospitalisation.