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With just 58,353 cases reported so far and less than 30 deaths, Singapore boasts one of the lowest fatality rates in the world. With only a handful of new patients being reported and only 86 active cases, the island city-state has been quite successful in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coming to aid this development is the upcoming deployment of the vaccine in the country. Some leading candidates of vaccines in Singapore are American-German alliance Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the up and coming Moderna’s mRNA-1273, Sinovac’s CoronaVac, and Arcturus’ ARCT-021. We look at the latest updates on the candidates, efficacy, required doses and more.
What’s the latest update on COVID-19 vaccine in the Singapore?
On December 14, Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, announced that the country has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and the first shipment of the doses will be received by the end of the month.
According to the vaccination regime advised by Pfizer-BioNTech, two doses have to be administered 21 days apart in individuals aged 16 and above. The analysis of the company’s data done by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) reveals that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the known risks.
The country has also placed orders through Advance Purchase Agreements with Moderna and Sinovac and is in discussion with a few others. These vaccine doses are also slated to arrive in Singapore in a few months, and according to the government’s plan, there will be “enough vaccines for everyone” by September 2021.
Additionally, the Singaporean government has invested $45 million in the development of the ARCT-021 vaccine with American biopharmaceutical firm Arcturus Therapeutics and pre-ordered doses worth an additional $175 million. It’s likely to be available in the first quarter of 2021.
How effective and safe is the vaccine?
After concluding the trials on around 37,000 individuals, Pfizer has demonstrated an efficacy of 95%. Although the vaccine has proved to be safe, the probability of it triggering allergic reactions and unseen side effects has not been ruled out. Moreover, its effectiveness in the real-world may be affected by more diverse populations and over longer time periods.
The American-made Moderna has also demonstrated a competitive efficacy rate of 94.1%. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also confirmed that the vaccine has a “favorable safety profile, with no specific safety concerns identified that would preclude issuance of an emergency use authorization.” In the trials, side effects like fever, headache, and fatigue were commonly observed, but no severe cases were reported.
In the case of Sinovac’s vaccine, the spokesman of its Indonesian partner, Bio Farma, had said on December 8 that the vaccine has 97% efficacy. However, Sinovac cleared the confusion by stating that 97% refers to the vaccine’s ability to create antibodies (seroconversion rate), but doesn’t necessarily speak to its protection against the virus. The actual efficacy of the shots is yet to be determined.
As for the ARCT-021 vaccine, in November, Arcturus has announced positive interim clinical study results from the ongoing Phase 1/2 study.
The government of Singapore itself has implemented stringent processes to assess the vaccines.
- Ensure they comply with the World Health Organization’s guidelines and international standards
- HSA is reviewing scientific and clinical evidence in detail and is in constant consultation with global benchmark regulatory authorities
- Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination is assessing how best to deploy the vaccines across all population segments to achieve optimal health outcomes for Singapore and Singaporeans
Vaccine priority list: When am I going to get vaccinated?
Preliminary guidelines detailed that the vaccination will be rolled out on the basis of risk and vulnerability. This includes:
- healthcare workers
- vulnerable groups, like the elderly and those at greater risk of severe disease from COVID-19 infection
Until the vaccines are proven utterly safe, they will not be given to pregnant women, those with compromised immunity, and children under 16 years old.
How much will the vaccine cost?
The vaccine will be administered free of cost to all Singaporeans and long-term residents by the end of next year. Vaccination is going to be voluntary, but the government encourages all Singaporeans to participate.