Up to 1,000 people who took non-mRNA Covid-19 shots but not booster may have lost fully-vaccinated status

The Sinovac-CoronaVac and Sinopharm vaccines are the non-mRNA vaccines available here. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - As many as 1,000 individuals who had taken only the primary course of non-mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, such as Sinopharm or Sinovac-CoronaVac, but not a booster jab could have had their fully vaccinated status revoked as at Monday (Feb 14).

Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said that as at Feb 9, there were about 1,000 people who have "completed their primary vaccine course with non-mRNA vaccines" and would see their fully vaccinated status expire by the Monday deadline.

Singapore encourages individuals to get a booster dose for continued protection against Covid-19. As at Monday, those aged 18 and above must take a booster shot within 270 days or nine months of completing their primary vaccination series to maintain their full vaccination status.

Without the status, individuals will not be able to do certain things, such as dine at restaurants, or go to the cinema, a mall or the library due to the vaccination-differentiated safe management measures at these settings.

The Sinovac-CoronaVac and Sinopharm vaccines, which are non-mRNA vaccines, have a three-dose primary vaccination course here.

The former was made available here under a special access route in June last year.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) advised those who received the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine as their third dose in the primary series to get a booster dose three months after that due to lower antibody levels generated by the third vaccine dose.

Those who take the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines are encouraged to get a booster jab five months after the primary course.

In Parliament on Tuesday, a few MPs had asked about non-mRNA vaccines, such as whether they can be made available to adolescents, as well as the availability of such boosters.

Dr Janil said those aged 12 to 17 years who are medically ineligible for the Pfizer vaccine can take the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine under a special programme, which is part of a research study, where the participants are closely monitored.

It is not generally available to adolescents as the manufacturer did not include children and adolescents when it sought an interim authorisation for its use in Singapore.

The World Health Organisation has also yet to recommend the Sinovac and the Sinopharm vaccines for those aged below 18.

MOH is working to bring in other non-mRNA options for those who are medically ineligible for mRNA vaccines, said Dr Janil. 

On Monday, the authorities approved the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Novavax for individuals here aged 18 and above. It can also be used as a booster dose. The first shipment will arrive in a few months' time.

Dr Janil urged those who are medically eligible for mRNA vaccines to take the ones available here as "they offer more optimal protection".

Separately, on the issue of vaccine fraud, Dr Janil said MOH and the police are working closely together to establish the false vaccination records of patients.

This comes after Iris Koh, founder of anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide, Jipson Quah, a general practitioner, and his clinic assistant were arrested last month for conspiring to submit false vaccination information to MOH.

At least 20 patients are believed to be involved in the alleged conspiracy.

"Investigations are ongoing but once the records are verified to be false, MOH will make the correction on our national systems immediately," he said.

"Patients who have obtained falsified vaccination status or false positive ART (antigen rapid test) results and have had the false data uploaded to our national systems will also be referred to the police for investigations."

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