Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Tuesday that Individuals who got the Sinovac Covid-19 shot are not included in Singapore’s national vaccination numbers. However, the ministry added that those who have received the vaccine will have the record reflected in the National Immunisation Registry and soon, the HealthHub mobile app as well.
The Sinovac vaccine has shown variable protection rates across multiple studies carried out internationally, with the most complete analysis showing an efficacy rate of 51%. In contrast, the Moderna Covid-19 and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which are currently the only ones included in the official vaccination count, have shown an efficacy rate of around 90%. Last month, the China-made vaccine became the second Chinese vaccine after Sinopharm to be approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use.
Unlike in Malaysia, the Sinovac jab is not included in Singapore’s national vaccination programme as it’s not authorised by the country’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA). Instead, the vaccine is available at private healthcare clinics under the Special Access Route (SAR) framework. Those who choose to get a vaccine under this framework do not get the special privileges given to fully vaccinated individuals such as being exempted from pre-event testing and being allowed to gather in groups of up to eight.
Reuters reported that when the vaccine was made available to the public, private clinics in Singapore were overwhelmed by the demand of Sinovac over the already-available mRNA vaccines. That being said, the majority of the takers were Chinese nationals who felt it would make it easier to travel home without going through quarantine.
According to Khairy Jamaluddin, National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme Coordinating Minister, 12 million doses supply of Sinovac will inoculate 18% of Malaysia’s population. In Selangor — the country’s most industrialised region — assemblywoman Lim Yi Wei found that Petaling Jaya residents from low-income housing “strangely prefer Sinovac” over the “gold standard” Pfizer mRNA vaccine. Even the British-Swedish AstraZeneca vaccine initially had to be sequestered into a separate opt-in stream instead of the national vaccination programme because of hesitancy and “choosiness”.
It’s also a bit odd to allow the private sector to administer the vaccine while at the same time, not fully recognising it. While Sinovac has a lower efficacy at preventing symptomatic infections, a study found that the vaccine protected 98% of Indonesian healthcare workers from death and 96% from hospitalisation. This kind of vaccine discrimination, similar to the EU vaccine passport’s rejection of Asian-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines, could lead to more vaccine hesitancy. As experts have echoed globally, the best vaccine is the one you can get.