SINGAPORE - Most major private healthcare institutions here have applied to be licensed providers of Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine.
This comes after the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced earlier this month that it would be inviting private healthcare institutions to provide the vaccine.
The deadline for applications was noon on Friday (June 11). MOH had earlier said that 20 private clinics would be selected and invited to draw on its existing stock of 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine for free.
The clinics will be allowed to charge a fee to cover their costs, but MOH said the Government will reimburse this fee to any of the 34,000 individuals who were allergic to or previously rejected from taking mRNA vaccines if they opt for the Sinovac jab.
The two vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech currently offered under the national vaccination programme rely on messenger RNA (mRNA) to teach the body how to defend itself from the coronavirus.
Sinovac's vaccine uses an inactivated form of the virus and is considered an "alternative vaccine" here.
Healthcare groups The Straits Times spoke to cited various reasons for wanting to offer Sinovac's jab to their patients.
One such group is IHH Healthcare Singapore, which operates the Mount Elizabeth, Mount Elizabeth Novena, Gleneagles and Parkway East hospitals, along with over 40 primary care clinics and ancillary services.
Its chief operating officer, Dr Noel Yeo, said the group's application was in response to "strong interest to receive alternative Covid-19 vaccines".
"Ever since MOH's announcement on opening up of access to other Covid-19 vaccines under the Special Access Route, we have received numerous queries from our doctors, patients and members of the public," he said.
Dr Khor Chin Kee, chief executive of Healthway Medical, which has also applied to be a provider, said the Sinovac vaccine will provide an alternative option for patients who cannot take mRNA vaccines.
Healthway Medical has 53 general practitioner clinics, and applied for 46 of them to be providers of the vaccine.
"We are supporting MOH's efforts to help as many people get vaccinated as possible in our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic," said Dr Khor, explaining the group's decision to apply.
A similar reason was cited by a spokesman for Fullerton Health.
"Our application to be a provider of Sinovac's vaccine is part of our ongoing commitment to offer options and access to individuals seeking Covid-19 vaccination," he said.
Meanwhile, Raffles Medical Group has taken the extra step of allowing members of the public to register their interest in getting Sinovac's vaccine.
"This enables us to have an estimate and forecast the demand for the vaccine. This is a means for more effective planning and organisation of our operations, in the event we are successful in our application," said a spokesman for the group.
While most of the groups did not respond to queries on the price of the jabs, Farrer Park Hospital said it would price them in accordance with MOH's guidance as the vaccine is meant to help protect more people from Covid-19 infection.
"Our hospital is committed to helping more people stay safe and if offering Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine can contribute to that, we would be most happy to do our part," said a spokesman.
Dr Daniel Lee, general manager and chief operating officer of Thomson Medical, said that his group would charge "only a nominal fee" to cover the costs of administering the vaccine.
He noted that the Government had said it would reimburse the fee for those who were previously rejected from taking the mRNA vaccines or are allergic to them.
Smaller chains such as Northeast Medical Group, which operates eight clinics, have applied to be providers as well.
Dr Tan Teck Jack, its CEO, said: "While vaccines do not prevent one from contracting the coronavirus, vaccines are very effective in preventing the development of severe disease.
"The mRNA vaccines are reportedly more effective. But there are people who are unsuitable or unduly worried. Sinovac's vaccine is a viable alternative that can increase vaccine compliance and prevent the serious consequences of not being vaccinated at all."