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Private healthcare providers to be allowed to offer some Covid-19 vaccines not yet approved by HSA: MOH

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be relaxing Covid-19 vaccination rules to allow a special route for private healthcare providers to administer alternate Covid-19 vaccines that are not yet authorised for use here, it said on Monday (May 31).

Private healthcare providers to be allowed to offer some Covid-19 vaccines not yet approved by HSA: MOH

A Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine vial in Manila.

  • A “special access route” will allow private healthcare providers in Singapore to administer other Covid-19 vaccines approved by WHO
  • To date, the Health Sciences Authority here has approved two Covid-19 vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna
  • However, some people may wish to use other vaccines owing to medical issues related to the two approved vaccines here

 

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be relaxing Covid-19 vaccination rules to allow a special route for private healthcare providers to administer alternate Covid-19 vaccines that are not yet authorised for use here, it said on Monday (May 31).

So far, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has authorised the use of only two Covid-19 vaccines, by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both of them mRNA-based vaccines.

The change would allow Covid-19 vaccines that have been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be on its Emergency Use Listing (EUL) to be used here. 

These vaccines will not be subsidised by the Government, and persons vaccinated through this route will not be eligible for MOH’s vaccine injury financial assistance programme, a scheme that supports people who suffer from adverse effects from their Covid-19 jabs.

The WHO’s list presently includes vaccines by AstraZeneca/Oxford, Johnson & Johnson, India’s Covishield as well as China’s Sinopharm. 

The Sinovac vaccine, of which Singapore has taken a first shipment of some 200,000 doses, is now undergoing approval to be on the EUL and a decision is expected by early June, WHO said on its website.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that once the vaccine is included in the EUL, a private licenced healthcare institution can use it to administer to individuals in Singapore.

“If WHO approves the Sinovac vaccine into its EUL, then a healthcare provider can apply to have access to use the 200,000 doses that we have and then use it to administer to individuals in our population who wants to have it,” Mr Ong said at a press conference following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s live televised speech on Monday.

The move is aimed to provide more flexibility to the use of alternative Covid-19 vaccines here, Mr Ong, who is co-chair of the Government's Covid-19 task force, said.

He disclosed that there are around 30,000 people who have been unable to take the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines due to medical reasons. 

MOH's expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination has been reviewing the guidance for the approved vaccines to allow more people with a history of anaphylaxis, as well as allergic reactions to seafood and to certain drugs, to take the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, Mr Ong said.

It may take the committee around two weeks to come to a new position, he added.

At the same time, MOH noted that there “has been interest to access alternate vaccines used in other countries” based on these medical reasons.

The ministry said, though, that there have either been no applications for approval of these alternate vaccines in Singapore, or evaluation is still ongoing.

This is why it will open up access to the EUL vaccines under a “special access route”, a mechanism that already exists to allow the import and supply of unregistered medicines to address unmet medical needs.

“The use of such vaccines should be according to the WHO EUL-approved indications and age groups,” it said.

The special access route will be permitted only for the duration of the pandemic, the ministry added.

“Like all other medicines supplied under the special access route, the doctor administering the vaccine and the patient should discuss the risks and benefits of using vaccines not registered or authorised by the HSA and jointly make an informed decision.” 

Patients will also need to sign an informed consent form to acknowledge that they have discussed with their doctor and accept all responsibility for the risks. 

“As more data becomes available, MOH will be able to determine if persons vaccinated under the special access route may be eligible for the same exemptions on testing, or public health restrictions, which may be accorded to individuals vaccinated under our national programme,” it said.

Mr Ong said at the press conference that vaccines administered through this route are primarily targeted at residents here and not for tourists. 

It will also not be free, unlike the approved vaccines under the national vaccination programme, and the pricing will be decided by the private healthcare institutions offering the vaccine. 

Related topics

MOH Covid-19 coronavirus Sinovac vaccine WHO HSA

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