On Monday (7 June), the Singapore expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination confirmed its awareness of the messages being spread around on social media that claim that mRNA-based vaccines are ineffective against new variants of concern, and that vaccines using an inactivated virus would provide superior protection.
To know more about mRNA vaccines, watch this video to the end:
One of the vaccines that uses an inactivated virus would be the Sinovac shot that’s produced in China.
COVID-19 variants of concern include the highly infectious B16172 variant that contributed to the rise in cases in Singapore, also known as “Delta”. Other variants of concern include the B117 strain that was first identified in the UK.
To know more about variants of concern and why they exist, watch this video:
To such messages, the committee responded in a statement that it “is critical that medical professionals do not spread unsubstantiated and unscientific information.”
“The public has a right to expect medical professionals to give advice based on facts and not on unproven assertions. The public should rely on reputable sources of scientific and medical information, and verify opinions shared by others against these,” reminded the committee.
Associate Professor David Lye, a senior infectious diseases specialist, also spoke up against misinformation being spread about COVID-19 vaccines by doctors.
In a Facebook post on Monday, titled “Why fake science and anti-vaccine groups are dangerous in a pandemic”, Professor Lye refuted claims by a group of doctors claiming that the Sinovac vaccine has already been “proven safe”.
“Doctors are well respected in our society, hence their advice may influence the public to avoid Covid-19 vaccination. We should be upset when these doctors quote dubious international experts and research, potentially misleading the public,” stated Professor Lye.
You can read his full post here:
Continued Endorsement of mRNA Vaccines
The committee also announced its continued endorsement of the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, used in Singapore.
The committee stated that “Our assessment, based on a continual review of data and evidence, remains that the mRNA vaccines are safe and highly effective, and continue to show protection against the variants of concern.
“The inactivated virus Covid-19 vaccines have variable protection and there is currently no evidence to suggest that inactivated virus vaccines demonstrate higher vaccine efficacy against variants of concern than the mRNA vaccines.”
Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA are the only two vaccines available under Singapore’s national vaccination programme.
According to the expert committee, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines have consistently shown to be highly efficacious—the efficacy rate of both vaccines are around 90%. Both are especially effective in protecting against severe COVID-19 disease and hospitalisation, said the committee.
The committee added that “This was first demonstrated in the pivotal Phase 3 clinical trials, and further supported with the data from actual roll-outs in the real-world, including in the United States, Britain and Israel.
“This includes protection against key variants of concern, such as the alpha and beta variants, which were the predominant strains circulating in these countries.”
Addressing concerns over the Delta variant, the committee further said that despite such concerns, emerging data suggest the continued efficacy of mRNA vaccines against the new variants.
“While further studies are required before a definitive conclusion can be made, the available data globally indicates that substantial protection is preserved,” said the committee.
The committee went further to cite a study in Britain, which results found that even against the Delta variant, two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine conferred about 88% protection against symptomatic COVID-19.
The committee also reiterated that no vaccine provides 100% protection, explaining that infections can still occur despite vaccinations, due to mutations that would lead to the emergence and spread of new variants.
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Speaking in reference to the detection of asymptomatic to mild infections among patients with the Delta variant, the committee said that this does not indicate a lack of protection.
Instead, this in line with the global evidence that mRNA vaccines provide a high level of protection against symptomatic and severe disease, said the committee.
Similar to the Singapore government, multiple reputable international regulatory bodies have also confirmed the efficacy of mRNA vaccines by approving the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
In addition, manufacturers of the vaccines have publicly released their detailed study protocols and openly published their findings, offering them up to the scrutiny of the scientific community after peer review.
Regulatory bodies, such as the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, have also published detailed assessments of these vaccines.
The Sinovac Shot
In comparison, according to the committee, the Sinovac shot has yet to meet the requirements for authorisation by Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority. This is because in order to meet the standards of evaluation, additional safety and quality data are required—data that are still pending.
On the Sinovac shot, the committee stated that the “Sinovac vaccine has also shown variable protection across multiple studies carried out internationally”.
“The most complete analysis of the vaccine showed a vaccine efficacy of 51 per cent,” said the committee. The protection that the Sinovac shot provides against newer variants and under real-world conditions is still unknown, added the committee.
Currently, the Sinovac shot has been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use in those aged 18 and above. The Singapore committee has also stated that this means that the Sinovac shot will not be an option for children and adolescents under 18, both globally and in Singapore.
In Singapore, the Sinovac vaccine will soon be available here under the Special Access Route, and will be available at private healthcare providers (soon).
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