Some Sinovac appointments cancelled as S'pore's supplies fully-allocated

Nigel Chua | August 13, 2021, 07:00 PM

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Some in Singapore who booked appointments to receive their first dose of the Sinovac vaccine have had their appointments cancelled.

One account of such a cancellation came from a Mothership reader, who produced a screenshot of a conversation between the person who had made an appointment for their first of two required doses under the Sinovac vaccine regime, and the clinic which was to administer the dose.

The cancellation came despite the appointment had been booked several weeks back, in mid-July, according to the reader.

The clinic, responding to its would-be patient, explained that the cancellation of the appointment was due to supply issues, as the supply of Sinovac doses it had been receiving from the Ministry of Health (MOH) had stopped abruptly.

What is the relationship between MOH and clinics?

MOH opened up access to Covid-19 vaccines such as Sinovac in June, and did so by inviting private healthcare institutions to apply to be providers.

24 institutions were then approved, and MOH allowed these providers to administer the initial stock of 200,000 doses, though it was emphasised at the time that this would be done outside of Singapore's national vaccination programme.

Another seven institutions were later added to the list of approved institutions, bringing the total to 31.

The providers are allowed to charge an administration fee only, as the vaccines were provided to them at no cost from MOH.

MOH also said there were 34,000 individuals who were previously rejected from taking the mRNA vaccines or who were allergic to the mRNA vaccine, and that these individuals would be reimbursed if they decided to receive the Sinovac vaccine instead.

Sinovac vaccine doses first arrived in February this year, but were not administered at the time due to insufficient information for "a thorough scientific assessment" by the authorities.

How are the vaccines being allocated?

According to an update by MOH on the government's stock of the Sinovac vaccine on Aug. 10, all of the initial stock of 200,000 Sinovac doses had been either allocated to providers, or reserved.

The split was as follows:

  • 170,000 doses allocated for 85,000 individuals to receive the vaccine (based on a two-dose regime per individual for full vaccination).
  • 30,000 doses reserved for Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders who had allergic reactions to the mRNA vaccines, and for "other purposes", which MOH did not specify.

MOH estimates at the time indicated that the 85,000 individuals would have received their first dose of the Sinovac vaccine by Aug. 12.

"After ringfencing sufficient doses for individuals coming for second doses of the Sinovac vaccine, the stock for the 31 approved private healthcare institutions will be depleted," said MOH.

This means that from Aug. 12 onwards, vaccination appointments for those wanting to get their first dose of the Sinovac vaccine are no longer possible, until new stock arrives.

MOH said it has been facilitating private healthcare institutions to order further Sinovac supplies.

"We expect the stocks to arrive in the next four to six weeks," said MOH.

As for the 30,000 doses reserved for those who had allergic reactions to the mRNA vaccines, MOH said it would contact these individuals to arrange for their vaccination appointments.

Why is there now a shortage?

Mothership understands that demand for the Sinovac vaccine spiked after an announcement on Aug. 6 that those who received the full regimen of Sinovac vaccines would be eligible for differentiated measures from Aug. 10.

This includes being allowed to dine in at restaurants in groups of five.

Another reason for the shortage in Sinovac supply is likely to be the MOH's decision to allow those unable to receive their second dose of mRNA vaccine to be considered eligible for differentiated measures, upon taking a single dose of the Sinovac vaccine, as announced on Aug. 2 in Parliament.

These individuals were allowed to receive the Sinovac vaccine since June, when the supply was made available, and as mentioned above, would have their vaccination fees reimbursed by MOH.

However, the Aug. 2 announcement means that these individuals would now have additional incentive to receive the Sinovac vaccine.

These two factors are on top of the already-overwhelming demand for Sinovac vaccine doses when they were first administered in June.

What happens to those whose appointments were cancelled?

Those who have received their first dose of the Sinovac vaccine before Aug. 12, and have upcoming appointments for the second dose of the Sinovac vaccine are likely to be among the 85,000 individuals whose second dose has already been allocated by MOH.

Those who have yet to receive their first dose, however, will have to wait for the new stocks to arrive.

However, those among this group who are eligible for mRNA vaccines can get fully vaccinated sooner.

They can visit any vaccination centre, as centres administering both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have both been opened up for walk-in vaccinations without the need for an appointment.

Top image via Getty Images

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