Singapore to review Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine before possible roll-out: minister


SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN): A coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech will have to go through regulatory scrutiny and authorisation by Singapore's Health Sciences Authority (HSA) before it can be rolled out to the public, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Wednesday (Jan 13).

This update follows the release of data on a Brazilian trial on Tuesday, which showed that the Sinovac vaccine was just 50.4 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infections. This barely meets the threshold for regulatory approval and is well below the rate announced last week.

The Sinovac vaccine has yet to be approved, Gan told reporters on Wednesday, after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only authorised one in Singapore.

"We will go through the data carefully when it comes, rather than depending on reported numbers. It's better to rely on official data that we receive from Sinovac itself," he said.

The HSA will assess the data when it is in, and the nation's Covid-19 expert committee will also evaluate if it is suitable for vaccination in Singapore, Gan explained.

"We will share more details when it's available," he added.

Another vaccine candidate, developed by United States firm Moderna, has also submitted its data and is currently being reviewed by the HSA, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who also took his first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday.

"If and when the Moderna vaccine is authorised for use, then we will also use it for the vaccination programme," said Wong, who co-chairs Singapore's Covid-19 multi-ministry task force with Gan.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are mRNA vaccines and have similar efficacy rates of around 95 per cent. mRNA is a genetic material that cells read to make proteins.

"I would think between the two, it's quite straightforward. Either one will do," Wong said.

The Sinovac vaccine is an inactivated vaccine, a platform that has been used in many other shots, such as the polio vaccine.

"But we still need to look at the data, we still need to see if it's more efficacious - for example for specific sub-segments, we don't know yet," Wong added, stressing that a detailed and comprehensive review will need to be done.

Minister Lawrence Wong speaking about the Sinovac vaccine

He urged the public to come forward to get vaccinated, instead of waiting for a specific brand of vaccine to be authorised, something which may or may not materialise.

"So rather than hold out and wait, I think what we have today is an authorised vaccine that is safe and effective, and when the time comes, just come forward and get yourself vaccinated," Wong advised. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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