International evidence has shown that many who had taken the Sinovac vaccine were later still infected with Covid-19, the Ministry of Health's (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak said on Friday, June 18.
He was addressing reporters at a virtual media briefing by the multi-ministry taskforce and responding to a question on whether Singapore intends to introduce the Sinovac vaccine into its national vaccination programme, following the June 16 rollout of the China-developed vaccine at 24 healthcare institutions licensed by MOH for those who wish to take it.
Assessing how other countries doing with Sinovac vaccine
Associate professor Mak said Singapore has been assessing the experience of countries such as Indonesia that has vaccinated a "larger proportion" of the population using CoronaVac, which is also what the Sinovac vaccine is called.
Evidence so far has shown that there is a significant risk of "vaccine breakthrough" with the Sinovac vaccine.
There have been media reports that more than 350 doctors and medical workers in Indonesia were infected with Covid-19, despite being vaccinated with CoronaVac.
Booster shots might be needed
The efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine has led to talks about boosters less than a year after the first jab.
Mak said at the press conference: "It's not a problem associated with Pfizer."
"This is actually a problem associated with the Sinovac vaccine, and in other countries, they are now starting to think about booster vaccinations, even six months out from an original vaccination for some of these vaccines as well."
"So it does give the impression that the efficacy of different vaccines will vary quite significantly," Mak added.
He stressed that Singapore has "great confidence" in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
So far, more than 4.7 million doses of the mRNA vaccines by the two entities have been administered in Singapore.
Sinovac still needs to provide data
Mak noted that there still is some "outstanding data" on the vaccine that Sinovac has not provided to the Health Sciences Authority in Singapore, which is required to give "complete assurance" about its quality and safety profile.
He added: "We look forward, if data becomes available for us, then to (commence) this process of evaluation but unfortunately we're not able to do so."
This leaves Sinovac unregistered and not authorised by HSA in Singapore, but still available provisionally under the Special Access Route (SAR) framework.
Those who take the Sinovac vaccine will not be covered under the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (VIFAP) meant for the national vaccination programme.
The 24 institutions that can administer the Sinovac vaccine were selected under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act (PHMCA) to be licensed providers.
These approved institutions have been seeing long queues since the Sinovac vaccine rollout date.
Top photo via MCI