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The Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine being used by a healthcare worker in Indonesia. — AFP pic
The Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine being used by a healthcare worker in Indonesia. — AFP pic

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SINGAPORE, Aug 3 — People with an allergic reaction to the first dose of the approved Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines are being invited to complete their vaccination process with the China-made Sinovac vaccine. Those who do so will be counted as fully vaccinated.

They may also choose to wait for the United States-developed Novavax vaccine, which is expected to arrive by the end of the year, but it is unclear at this point if the authorities are able to consider those who may complete their vaccination with it fully vaccinated as well.

Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary gave these updates in Parliament yesterday (August 2) in response to questions from two Members of Parliament (MPs) about alternative vaccines that are not authorised by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) yet.

Sinovac, which is available here under the HSA’s Special Access Route framework, is seen as more suitable for those with allergies as it takes the traditional approach – using a weakened or inactivated virus in the vaccine that is modified to trigger an immune system response. The vaccines approved so far adopt the newer messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology.

Novavax uses a “subunit vaccine approach”, which is also not based on the mRNA technology.

Dr Puthucheary said MoH has established a dedicated public health programme for those who were invited to take Sinovac to be vaccinated at a clinic in public hospitals for close monitoring, considering their previous allergic reaction.

His reply came a month after the Health Ministry (MOH) revealed that those who received a dose of mRNA vaccine, followed by the Sinovac due to their allergic reactions, are being studied to understand the immunity conferred by the use of different vaccines.

In response to TODAY’s queries, MoH said that these persons will receive two doses of the Sinovac vaccine.

“As of July 28, we have contacted about 5,000 such individuals, and of these, over 2,000 of them have indicated interest in the programme,” MoH said.

“In view that the persons participating in the programme would have received three doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, they will be regarded as being fully vaccinated.”

As of July 31, 61 per cent of the population have completed the full vaccination regimen.

MP for Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) Gerald Giam was one of the MPs to whom Dr Puthucheary was responding.

He had asked how individuals with allergic reactions to their first Covid-19 dose and are prevented from getting their second dose will be able to eventually attain “fully vaccinated” status.

Other than seeking an update on the progress of regulatory approval for Novavax, he also asked, in a supplementary question, if people with allergic reactions to mRNA vaccines can also be considered fully vaccinated if they get Novavax, which has been procured by MoH.

Dr Puthucheary said MoH and HSA are working closely with Novavax to facilitate the regulatory submission for their protein subunit vaccine, and the review timeline will depend on the availability and submission of data by the company to HSA.

“While we recognise the need to facilitate timely access to the vaccine, there should be no compromise on the scientific rigour of the assessment of their quality, safety and efficacy,” he told Parliament.

As for whether people allergic to mRNA vaccines can be considered fully vaccinated if they later took Novavax, he said: “I think the first thing is we shouldn’t try to second guess or jump the gun on the expert process, the professional process that needs to be undergone.”

However, if the standards were met, “I see no reason why it shouldn’t be considered in the same way as the other processes that I’ve just described, but I think it’s premature at this point to guarantee that it will be so”, he added.

“We will get the data, we will put it through the process, and then we will announce the details later on,” he said.

Vaccines that come under the Special Access Route are not covered under the vaccine injury financial assistance programme, which supports people who suffer adverse effects from their Covid-19 jabs.

MoH had previously said that people who took the Sinovac vaccine alone will not be exempted from pre-event testing as they may lack sufficient documentation of how effective they are at protecting people against the Delta variant, which is more infectious.

On the other hand, a study of 1,000 household contacts of Covid-19 cases here by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and MOH had already found that mRNA vaccines have an effectiveness of 69 per cent against the Delta variant, regardless of symptoms.

Dr Puthucheary said Sinovac’s manufacturer had submitted the critical data requested by the agency for Pandemic Special Access Route approval on July 5.

HSA is currently conducting a careful and thorough review of the data and aims to complete its evaluation before the end of August, he added. ― TODAY

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