Singapore omits Sinovac shots from COVID-19 vaccination tally

People queue to enquire about Sinovac vaccine at a clinic, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore
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By Aradhana Aravindan and Chen Lin

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - People who received Sinovac Biotech shots are excluded from Singapore's count of total vaccinations against COVID-19, officials in the city state said, citing inadequate efficacy data for the Chinese-made vaccine, especially against the contagious Delta variant.

"We don't really have a medical or scientific basis or have the data now to establish how effective Sinovac is in terms of infection and severe illnesses on Delta," health minister Ong Ye Kung said during a media briefing on Wednesday.

The Delta variant has become the most prevalent strain of COVID-19 in Singapore since a cluster of infections was identified at the airport in May. The government subsequently moved back to stricter curbs on social gatherings and public activities, though it has begun relaxing some of those restrictions.

Only people who participated in the national immunisation programme, which currently uses the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech/Cominarty shots, are counted in the tally for vaccinations.

More than 3.7 million people have received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, covering about 65% of the population, and nearly 2.2 million have completed the two-dose regimen.

Singapore has set a target for two-thirds of its people to be fully vaccinated by around Aug. 9.

Following an emergency use approval by the World Health Organization (WHO), Singapore began allowing designated private clinics to offer the Sinovac shot, CoronaVac, from mid-June. Singapore had a stock of 200,000 CoronaVac doses which the clinics could draw on.

As of July 3, just over 17,000 people had received one dose of CoronaVac, and authorities say that demand for the vaccine appeared to taper off after an initial rush.

Last month, Kenneth Mak, Singapore's director of medical services, said evidence from other countries showed people who had taken CoronaVac were still getting infected, posing a significant risk.

And Singapore has said that people vaccinated with CoronaVac would still need to be tested for COVID-19 before attending certain events or entering some venues, unlike people vaccinated under the national programme.

Singapore has reported 62,652 infections since the pandemic first erupted last year, with most found in foreign worker domitories. But there were only five new locally-acquired cases reported on Wednesday. COVID-19 related deaths stood at 36, one of the lowest rates in the world.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and Chen Lin in Singapore; Editing by Ed Davies & Simon Cameron-Moore)