Singaporean health officials have publicly expressed concerns about significant risk reported with vaccines from China following hundreds of Indonesian health workers testing positive for COVID-19 last week despite being fully vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine. Singapore is the latest country to cast doubt on the vaccine.
Dozens of the more than 350 doctors and health workers in Indonesia infected with COVID-19 despite having received the Sinovac vaccine have been hospitalized, it was reported last week, causing further doubt over the vaccine’s efficacy, especially against more infectious variants of the virus. Indonesia has bought and administered China’s vaccine to a large number of its citizens.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health’s (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak said at a virtual press conference on June 18 in response to the news from Indonesia that it was evidence of significant risk of “vaccine breakthrough” regarding the Sinovac vaccine “CoronaVac.”
Currently, Singapore has only approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for its national vaccination program, while allowing private clinics to offer Sinovac.
Mak said that Singapore has “great confidence” in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. So far, more than 4.7 million doses of them have been administered to its citizens. However, he pointed out that “the efficacy of different vaccines will vary quite significantly.” He mentioned that some countries who had been relying on China’s vaccines to protect their population are already offering booster shots.
In early June, Bahrain and The United Arab Emirates started to offer Pfizer shots as booster to those inoculated with China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines. The countries have seen a huge surge of COVID-19 infections recently, despite having administered millions of doses of China’s vaccines to its citizen since the end of last year.
Meanwhile, in Serbia, a clinical study has reported that 30 percent of its elderly aged 65 or above have no antibodies after receiving the Sinopharm vaccine. Serbia is the first European country to use China’s vaccines.
The World Health Organization (WHO) approved emergency use of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines. Phase 3 clinic trials of China’s vaccines around the world have reported the efficacy rates between 50 and 84 percent. However, Chinese companies still haven’t publicly published the data for their Phase 3 trial. The lack of transparency on the vaccine trials has also been a cause of concern.
According to Hong Kong public broadcasting service RTHK , the Hong kong government recently issued a safety evaluation report on COVID-19 vaccines. Besides dozens of death, the report stated that by the end of May, there were 87 facial paralysis cases linked to vaccinations in Hong Kong. Half of the patients received Sinovac, while the other half received the Chinese BioNTech vaccine. German company BioNTech, which is the co-developer of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, signed an agreement with Chinese state-owned Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Co. to authorize it to exclusively produce and sell COVID-19 vaccines using BioNTech’s mRNA technology for mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
In the report, the Hong Kong expert committee warned of a potential connection between China’s vaccines and the facial paralysis. It has required The University of Hong Kong to further analyze the cases.
The European Union has excluded China’s vaccines for its digital vaccination pass program that will start on July 1. Due to the reports of quality issues, low efficacy, and the lack of transparency in trial data and side effects, the European Medicines Agency says it has yet to approve the use of China’s vaccines in the EU. A few European countries have individually approved them.