Roll-out of Moderna Spikevax bivalent Covid-19 vaccine brought forward to Oct 14

The Moderna bivalent vaccine targets the original Sars-CoV-2 strain of the virus as well as the Omicron BA.1 variant. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - The roll-out of the bivalent version of Moderna's Spikevax vaccine is being brought forward by three days to Friday, the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday.

The bivalent vaccine was originally scheduled to be available from Oct 17, but because preparations for its introduction were completed ahead of time, it can be made available earlier, said the ministry.

The Moderna bivalent vaccine, which was approved by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in September, targets the original Sars-CoV-2 strain of the virus as well as the Omicron BA.1 variant.

Preliminary data showed that the Moderna bivalent vaccine is also effective against the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants, and others such as the Delta and Gamma variants, HSA said then.

Those aged 50 and above, whose last Covid-19 vaccine jab was at least five months ago, can walk into any of the nine joint testing and vaccination centres offering the new vaccine islandwide to get the bivalent shot, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told the media on Tuesday.

They will not have to make an appointment beforehand. 

The minister added that those who are below 50 years old but medically vulnerable will also be able to get the new vaccine.

Noting the rising number of Covid-19 infections here - with more than 4,700 cases reported on Monday - Mr Ong said Singapore was operationally ready to administer the bivalent vaccine.

The ministry said that as infections are rising due to the emergence of another Omicron sub-variant, XBB, giving shots of the new vaccine earlier would be beneficial.

The nine centres will together be able to offer between 60,000 and 70,000 jabs of the bivalent vaccine a day, said Mr Ong.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to the joint testing and vaccination centre in Commonwealth with Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong.

The two, who are both co-chairmen of the multi-ministry task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, received their bivalent booster shots at the centre.

Mr Gan encouraged those aged 50 and above to get their shots of the new vaccine as soon as they are eligible, to keep those around them safe.

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The Health Ministry said a clinical trial of the bivalent vaccine showed that it provided better protection against newer Covid-19 variants, generating an antibody response against the Omicron variant that was 75 per cent greater than the original Moderna booster.

It added that side effects following vaccination were similar to those of the original Moderna vaccine and there were no safety issues.

HSA and the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination have independently reviewed the data and assessed that the bivalent vaccine has a similar safety profile to Moderna's original Spikevax vaccine.

"The vaccine is safe and the risk of serious adverse events from the vaccine is very rare," the ministry said.

Pfizer's bivalent vaccine is still under evaluation, but is expected to be available in Singapore by the end of the year.

The XBB strain, otherwise known as BA.2.10, is currently the dominant cause of Covid-19 infections in Singapore, Mr Ong said.

It has been detected in several countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Japan and the United States, since August.

Figures from the ministry showed that XBB currently makes up 55 per cent of infections here.

However, there is no evidence that it leads to more severe cases, said Mr Ong, adding that the authorities are watching the new sub-variant very closely.

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