Coronavirus: Singapore

Clinics get 'non-stop' calls about Sinovac's shot

Some among 24 providers flooded with inquiries even before receiving supplies of jab

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has licensed 24 healthcare institutions here to administer Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine. As the doses are provided to the institutions free, MOH has said they should not charge people anything other than a vaccination admin
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has licensed 24 healthcare institutions here to administer Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine. As the doses are provided to the institutions free, MOH has said they should not charge people anything other than a vaccination administration fee, inclusive of goods and services tax.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Some clinics have been receiving "non-stop" inquiries from people interested in receiving Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine after the Ministry of Health's (MOH) announcement late on Wednesday that 24 private healthcare institutions would be licensed to administer it.

MOH said that anyone interested in getting the vaccine could directly contact the 24 selected providers from today for more details.

But as at yesterday afternoon, some of the providers were already inundated with calls.

The Straits Times contacted all 24 providers, but 20 did not answer the phone or could not be reached. The four that responded said they had been dealing with calls about Sinovac's shot since morning.

A clinic assistant at iCare Medical and Wellness Clinic said she had received "too many calls to count", even though the first batch of the vaccine - 200 vials - is scheduled to reach the clinic only today.

"We've been taking calls from 8.30am till now, non-stop... hundreds of calls," said another clinic assistant at Little Cross Family Clinic when contacted by ST at around 1pm yesterday.

Icon Cancer Centre Farrer Park also faced a deluge of a few hundred calls in the morning alone, said chief executive Serena Wee.

She said her centre had been told only on Wednesday night that its application was successful, so it is still working out certain administrative details. Her centre is expecting 200 vials to be delivered today.

She also said her centre was told it could request a resupply of doses once half the vials were used up.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam of Rophi Clinic said he would most likely be requesting more doses beyond the initial 200, as his clinic also received hundreds of calls yesterday.

MOH earlier said that as the doses are provided to the institutions free, they should not charge people anything other than a vaccination administration fee, inclusive of 7 per cent goods and services tax. The charges for Sinovac's vaccine by the 24 approved providers range from $10 to $25.

Notably absent from the list of providers were large chains such as IHH Healthcare, which had earlier expressed interest in providing the vaccine.

Dr Lim Boon Hee, a general practitioner who is not involved in the distribution of any of the Covid-19 vaccines here, described this as "unusual" given the interest from major healthcare groups.

Smaller clinics may not have the manpower or space to cope with the "pent-up demand" for Sinovac's vaccine, he noted.

Asked why major healthcare chains were not chosen, MOH said yesterday that the clinics were selected based on a number of factors such as their medical processes, and a commitment to offer the lowest administration fees.

Unsuccessful applicants may still provide Sinovac's vaccine if they apply to and are approved by the authorities under the Special Access Route (SAR) framework, but must bring the vaccines into Singapore themselves.

"Ultimately, the provision of the... vaccine under SAR is a private arrangement and is not part of the national vaccination programme," said the ministry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2021, with the headline 'Clinics get 'non-stop' calls about Sinovac's shot'. Subscribe