Singapore – Minister for Education Lawrence Wong, said on Wednesday (Jan 13) that people should get themselves vaccinated with an approved Covid-19 vaccine when the time comes, rather than holding out and waiting for another brand.
After receiving his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital on Wednesday, Mr Wong told media, “what we have today is an authorized vaccine that is safe, that is effective.”
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong joined Mr Wong in getting vaccinated. The ministers are also the co-chairs of the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force.
Mr Gan noted in Parliament earlier in January that Singapore has made advance purchases of three vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Sinovac, to be rolled out in the country. So far, only Pfizer-BioNTech is approved while the latter two are undergoing a “rigorous review process” as announced by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).
HSA is currently reviewing Moderna’s vaccine, said Mr Wong, while Sinovac’s vaccine is waiting for approval.
“We are still waiting for more data, and we will go through the data carefully when it comes, rather than depending on reported numbers. So, better to rely on official data received from Sinovac itself,” said Mr Gan.
It was revealed by researchers on Tuesday (Jan 12) that Sinovac’s vaccine, called CoronaVac, had a 50.4 per cent efficacy rate at preventing symptomatic infections during a Brazilian trial. The value was below the rate initially announced last week.
Mr Wong highlighted should the two remaining vaccines be approved, it would be used in Singapore’s vaccination programme. He also mentioned that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have similar efficacy rates, about 95 per cent, and were both based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.
“I would think between the two, it’s quite straightforward; either one will do,” said Mr Wong as quoted by channelnewsasia.com.
Meanwhile, CoronaVac uses inactivated vaccine technology, utilizing a weakened form of a live virus to stimulate or prompt the body’s immune system response. The Sinovac vaccine works similarly to the chickenpox and flu vaccines by introducing the virus to create specific antibodies.
Mr Wong noted that the Sinovac vaccine data needed more observation, whether it is more efficacious for specific sub-segments, as an example.
He also took to Facebook to inform the public of their first dose of vaccinations. “Both Kim Yong (sic) and I have been encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. So we felt we should do so early ourselves, to assure Singaporeans that we have full confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.”
He noted the process was very similar to a flu jab – a “painless and seamless procedure without feeling side effects other than mild soreness in the arm.”
The government is steadily ramping the nationwide Covid-19 vaccine programme, said Mr Wong. “For now, the priority is to vaccinate healthcare and frontline workers, including those working at our border entry checkpoints like our air and seaport workers. Later this month, we will start the vaccination for seniors.”
“When your turn comes, do take up the vaccine to protect yourself and your loved ones.”
There will be eight vaccination centres to be established within Singapore by the end of next month, said Mr Gan. Two centres, located in Changi Airport Terminal 4 and Raffles City Convention Centre, are already operational. Simultaneously, two more at the former Hong Kah Secondary School and Woodlands Galaxy Community Club will commence operations next week, reported straitstimes.com.
There will be four other vaccination centres by February, with more being added as Singapore expands its vaccination initiative, said Mr Gan.
It has been reported that more than 6,200 people have already received their first doses of the vaccine, the numbers expected to rise substantially soon.