About 1,000 people in Singapore who completed their Covid-19 primary vaccination course with non-mRNA vaccines (Sinovac or Sinopharm), but have yet to take a booster jab, would have had their fully vaccinated status expire by Feb. 14, 2022.
This was announced by Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb. 15).
The Ministry of Health (MOH) had previously announced that from Feb. 14, those aged 18 and above in Singapore will have to take a booster shot within 270 days of completing their last dose in the primary vaccination series in order to maintain a fully vaccinated status.
Without the fully vaccinated status, an individual will not be able to do certain things in Singapore, such as dining in at restaurants, in accordance to the vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS).
Can get Sinovac as booster if above 18 and medically ineligible
Puthucheary said in Parliament that individuals who are medically ineligible to receive mRNA vaccines can take the Sinovac vaccine as their booster shot under the national vaccination programme.
He explained that this will only be for individuals aged 18 and above, as the vaccine manufacturer did not include children and adolescents when filing for interim authorisation of the vaccine under the Health Sciences Authority (HSA)'s Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR).
Both Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines are also "not currently recommended for routine use in persons...below 18 years of age by the World Health Organisation", Puthucheary added.
Dedicated programme outside national vaccination programme
Nevertheless, Puthucheary stated that limited data from Sinovac's early Phase 1 and 2 trials in healthy children and adolescents aged three to 17 "do not show safety concerns".
MOH has therefore separately introduced a dedicated programme: Sinovac after mRNA (SAM). SAM is part of a research study.
It offers the Sinovac vaccine to individuals "outside the scope of PSAR approval".
This is to give them "some level of protection against Covid-19 while closely monitoring their safety", Puthucheary said.
In January 2022, the programme was further extended to eligible children aged five to 11, after the data from the older age group indicated that the safety profile of the vaccine was "generally consistent with that of other registered vaccines used in immunisation against other diseases".
MOH looking into other non-mRNA options
Puthucheary also said that MOH is looking to bring in other non-mRNA options for those who are medically ineligible, such as the Novavax vaccine which was recently approved under HSA's PSAR.
According to Puthucheary, Novavax had recently released data that the vaccine was found to be 80 per cent effective against Covid-19 in a late-stage trial in adolescents aged 12 to 17 years in the US when the Delta variant was the dominant strain.
"HSA and MOH will evaluate the data from this study and will continue to monitor for more data on its efficacy and safety in children and adolescents.
We hope that the initial doses of the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine will arrive in Singapore within a matter of months, provided that there are no disruptions to the shipment schedule.
Meanwhile, those who are medically eligible are encouraged to take the available mRNA vaccines as they offer more optimal protection."
Follow and listen to our podcast here:
Top photo via Getty Images.