Coronavirus Singapore

MOH gives green light to Sinovac shot under special access route

Details of pricing being worked out; patients and healthcare providers evaluating situation

Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine will be allowed under the Special Access Route (SAR), said the Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday.

This follows the announcement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday that it had approved the shot under its emergency-use listing.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, MOH said that given this latest development, the Sinovac product would be allowed under the SAR.

However, since the China-made vaccine is not part of the national programme, those who choose to receive it will not be eligible for the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme should they develop any adverse reactions.

MOH said it will release more details in the coming days on how private healthcare institutions can apply to be licensed providers of the Sinovac vaccine.

It is working out details on pricing, informed-consent process and safety of the patients who prefer to take the Sinovac shot.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung had said on Monday that licensed healthcare institutions can apply to MOH to draw on Singapore's existing stock of 200,000 doses of the vaccine, which were delivered earlier this year.

However, MOH clarified yesterday that this is still a possibility that is being assessed.

It said that as more international and local evidence and data become available, the MOH's expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination is also reviewing current restrictions to allow people with a known history of anaphylaxis to be inoculated with the vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

Both use messenger RNA (mRNA) to teach the body to protect itself from Covid-19, while Sinovac's vaccine uses an inactivated form of the coronavirus.

Private healthcare providers said they were awaiting guidance and further information from the authorities, with some still evaluating whether to offer any vaccines under the SAR.

But for some members of the public, the announcement came a few days too late.

Retiree Goh Lam Woo, 83, had been waiting for months to take the Sinovac vaccine. But with the pandemic worsening, he decided to get the Pfizer-BioNTech one last week while accompanying his wife, who was getting her jab.

"I feel a little bit frustrated," he said of Tuesday's approval of the vaccine by the WHO.

He said he had been reluctant to take the mRNA vaccines as they are a "new product", and would have preferred instead to take the Sinovac shot as he considers it a "true vaccine", similar to the kind used against flu, measles or polio.

"(Pfizer-BioNTech) can't tell you what the effects are one year down the road, what it's going to do to your organs," he said.

Others were not enthused by the prospect of taking the Sinovac shot. Ms Spring Victoria Zaccheus said she is unlikely to opt for Sinovac's shot as its reported efficacy rate is lower than those of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

"I don't feel safe taking it," said the 24-year-old student.

Although she has drug allergies that can cause "very bad swelling" around her eyes and may risk such a reaction to the mRNA vaccines, she said: "I would rather take the risk and take the Pfizer vaccination if possible, but wait there for an hour instead of just 30 minutes, in case anything were to happen."

Retiree Madam Toh, 80, who declined to give her full name, said she was unable to take the mRNA vaccines due to her history of anaphylaxis. She plans to wait a little longer and ask her doctor about the Sinovac option at her next medical check-up.

"They have not really found out what allergies may be triggered as a reaction to Sinovac's vaccine. I suspect the emergency acceptance may have been a bit rushed because of the worldwide need for vaccines," she said. "I just have to be very careful in the meantime."

• Additional reporting by Linette Lai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2021, with the headline 'MOH gives green light to Sinovac shot under special access route'. Subscribe