SINGAPORE, June 18 (Reuters) – By offering Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccines to the public in Singapore for the first time since Friday, several private clinics have reported overwhelming demand for the vaccine made in China, despite competing vaccines already available with much higher efficiency.
Singapore has vaccinated nearly half of its 5.7 million people with at least one dose of the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech (PFE.N), (22UAy.DE) and Moderna (MRNA.O). Both have shown efficacy rates well above 90% against symptomatic diseases in clinical trials, compared to 51% for Sinovac.
Earlier this week, officials in neighboring Indonesia warned that more than 350 medical workers had contracted COVID-19 despite having been vaccinated with Sinovac and dozens hospitalized, raising concerns about its effectiveness against more infectious variants. Read more
Evidence from other countries showed that people who took the Sinovac vaccine were still infected, Kenneth Mak, director of Singapore’s medical services, said on Friday. “There is a significant risk of the vaccine breaking out,” he said, referring to the report on Indonesian healthcare workers.
A number of people rushing for Sinovac’s coup on the first day of his availability in Singapore were Chinese nationals, who believed it would be easier to return home without going through quarantine.
Singapore authorized the use of the Sinovac vaccine by private health facilities on a special route, following emergency use approval by the World Health Organization (WHO) early in the year. month. Singapore said it was waiting for critical data from Sinovac before including it in the national immunization program.
In the meantime, authorities have selected 24 private clinics to administer its current stock of 200,000 doses. Clinics charge between S $ 10 and S $ 25 ($ 7.5 to 18.6) per dose.
“We have about 2,400 bookings, so that runs from now until the end of July,” said Louis Tan, CEO of the StarMed Specialist Center on Saturday. He said many of those who have made Sinovac reservations tend to be in their 40s and over.
Wee Healthfirst, another licensed clinic, put a notice on its entrance Friday, saying it had suspended reservations for the vaccine until next Thursday, citing “overwhelming demand.” A receptionist said about 1,000 people have registered.
Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease doctor at the Rophi Clinic, also said he had been “overwhelmed” by people who wanted to get the Sinovac vaccine.
Tang Guang Yu, a 49-year-old engineer, was among Chinese nationals residing in Singapore who were waiting for Sinovac’s injection rather than taking a foreign-made vaccine which he said might not be recognized by his authorities. country.
“No one wants to be quarantined for a month, I don’t have that many days off,” Tang told Reuters as he stood in line outside a clinic.
Travelers to China may need to be quarantined in an institution and at home for up to a month depending on their destination city, regardless of their vaccination status, according to the Chinese government website.
Others have said they have more confidence in the Sinovac vaccine because it is based on conventional technology, while those developed by Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna use a new messenger RNA platform.
“The mRNA technology has been around for 30 years, but it has never been injected into humans until recently due to the COVID-19 emergency, how safe is it? Singaporean Chua Kwang Hwee, 62, asked as he stood in line outside a clinic to inquire about the possibility of getting the Sinovac vaccine.
Singapore’s health ministry said people with a history of allergic reaction or anaphylaxis to COVID-19 mRNA vaccine or its components as well as severely immunocompromised people should not receive mRNA-based vaccines. .
The Sinovac vaccine uses an inactivated or killed virus that cannot replicate in human cells to trigger an immune response.
In recent weeks, several social media posts have surfaced saying that COVID-19 inactivated virus vaccines, like the one from Sinovac, offer superior protection against variants than mRNA vaccines. Other posts on the platforms have stated that mRNA vaccines are less safe.
Authorities have dismissed the claims, saying they are safe and very effective.
($ 1 = 1.3412 Singapore dollars)
Reporting by Chen Lin and Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Editing by Miyoung Kim & Simon Cameron-Moore
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