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Some clinics in Singapore continue to provide and administer the Sinovac vaccine but for a fee. — Reuters pic
Some clinics in Singapore continue to provide and administer the Sinovac vaccine but for a fee. — Reuters pic

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SINGAPORE, Oct 2 — Some clinics have started charging for Sinovac vaccine shots while others have switched to providing Sinopharm as the first batch of Sinovac stocks are depleted.

They are doing so after the Ministry of Health (MOH) said last month that new supplies of Sinovac, which arrived on Sept 20, will be made for sale.

In June this year, MOH made 170,000 doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine free at approved private healthcare institutions, after initially saying that those who choose to take it would have to pay for the treatment.

While Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech or Comirnaty vaccines are approved for the national vaccination programme, Sinovac is not.

However, Sinovac is available to private healthcare institutions under what is known as a Special Access Route. Vaccines obtained through this route are not subsidised.

A total of 31 private healthcare institutions were approved to administer the free Sinovac doses, only charging administrative fees of between S$10 and S$25 (About RM30 and RM77).

On September 13, however, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a written response to parliamentary questions that the initial stock of Sinovac vaccine had depleted over time.

He added that his ministry had facilitated private healthcare institutions to bring in new supplies of the vaccine and these will be made for sale after their arrival on Sept 20.

Clinics charge for Sinovac, turn to Sinopharm

At least one clinic here appeared to be caught unaware that it will no longer receive subsidised Sinovac vaccines.

A notice on Rophi Clinic’s website seen on Thursday said that it was “just informed” by the Government that it will no longer receive subsidised Sinovac vaccines.

“We did not expect this and we are totally caught unaware this time,” the clinic said in the notice.

It will bring in the Sinopharm vaccine, which is also from China, and will charge S$53.50 for each dose.

Another healthcare institution that TODAY approached, StarMed Specialist Centre, also said that it was now providing Sinopharm instead of Sinovac.

Dr Louis Tan, chief executive officer of the medical centre located in Farrer Park, said that he was aware that the Sinovac stock would run out “sooner or later” because the ministry had informed them that it would not supply further doses.

After the centre’s Sinovac stock was depleted in the first half of September, it decided to bring in about 2,000 doses of Sinopharm because several patients had expressed interest in the vaccine.

The medical centre has administered about half the doses of its Sinopharm vaccine since Sept 17.

It charges S$88 for two doses of the vaccine, inclusive of Goods and Sevices Tax.

Other clinics continue to provide Sinovac but for a fee.

One of these is Chua Medical Clinic and Surgery in Bukit Batok, which has been charging S$75 for each dose of Sinovac vaccine since Sept 23.

Dr Chua Guan Kiat who runs the clinic said that the price covers the cost of the vaccine, its delivery and cold storage charges.

As infections in the community continue to rise, he said that there continues to be demand for the Sinovac vaccine even though it is no longer free.

Besides Sinovac, Dr Chua said that his clinic has also brought in 500 doses of Sinopharm in August and is expecting the arrival of another 2,000 doses this month.

He decided to do this because there is demand for Chinese vaccines. The demand is driven by those who suffer side-effects from the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, as well as by patients who feel that vaccines from China are effective, among other reasons, he said.

Although the Sinovac vaccine costs higher than Sinopharm, which is S$50 a dose, Dr Chua said that the price difference “is not an issue” to patients who want to vaccinate themselves due to rising Covid-19 cases here. — TODAY

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