Singapore is studying the possibility of using non-mRNA vaccines as booster shots and is in talks with suppliers to obtain the vials, said Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary in Parliament on Tuesday (Sep 14).
Dr Puthucheary was responding to several questions by Members of Parliament (MP) on Singapore’s vaccination strategy and how it applies to the path towards eventually living with COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Expert Committee on COVID-19 vaccination is “actively studying a heterologous strategy involving non-mRNA vaccines”, he said, adding that the ministry will continue to observe global and local data – particularly on the risk of adverse reactions – before recommending booster shots for additional population groups.
Currently, the committee has recommended that seniors aged 60 and above receive a booster jab six to nine months after their second dose, while immunocompromised individuals should get a booster two months after their second dose.
MOH had said on Sep 3 that immunocompromised people should get a third dose of the same mRNA vaccine to “ensure that they start off with an adequate protective immune response to vaccination”.
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It also said then that the expert committee would study whether a different brand of vaccine would be more effective as a booster shot. Some studies have shown that this could be the case.
“We are negotiating with suppliers to provide us non-mRNA booster shots, and a few are preparing their applications for PSAR (pandemic special access route),” Dr Puthucheary said on Tuesday.
The PSAR allows the Health Sciences Authority to grant interim authorisation for critical novel vaccines, medicines and medical devices during a pandemic. The only COVID-19 vaccines currently approved under PSAR are the mRNA vaccines Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Singapore has also signed advance purchase agreements with American biotechnology company Novavax to secure its protein-based vaccine, with supplies possibly arriving before the end of the year.
“We have a deliberate strategy to procure a portfolio of vaccines that use different technologies, to improve our chances of securing vaccines that will continue to be safe and effective against COVID-19,” Dr Puthucheary added.
On the contrary, booster shots to extend the protection of COVID-19 vaccines may be unnecessary for many people, a leading scientist behind the AstraZeneca vaccine branded as Covishield in India said on Friday.
According to top virologist conducting mass vaccination campaigns on a background of high infection rates generates optimal conditions for breeding even more infectious Sars-CoV-2 variants.
Meanwhile, according to a Japanese study, the COVID Delta variant may soon acquire complete resistance to vaccines.