No pre-event testing exemption for Sinovac upsets some

SINGAPORE – For Mr Liu, 28, finding out that he would not be exempt from pre-event testing after getting the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine was “not a very pleasant feeling”.

The banker and permanent resident, who declined to give his full name, had opted to get his first jab of the Sinovac vaccine on June 21 as he was not eligible to register for the national vaccination programme at the time.

He had wanted to get vaccinated as soon as possible, as his work requires him to travel regularly.

“If I knew that the Government would open registration to PRs this week, I probably wouldhave waited,” he said, adding that he had to pay $50 to receive both doses. In comparison, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are free under the national programme.

The Health Ministry had said on Wednesday that people who received the Sinovac vaccine will not be exempt from pre-event testing, as shots not included in the national programme may lack sufficient documentation of how well they prevent infection.

People who are fully vaccinated do not have to take pre-event tests for live performances, Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) events and wedding solemnisations.

Analyst Chuah Bee Kuan, 52, said the rule was “very unfair”, as the Sinovac vaccine has already been used in various countries, and widely in China.

She had visited Mediview Clinic & Surgery in Toa Payoh yesterday with her mother. A doctor had advised her mother, who is in her 80s, to get the Sinovac jab due to her allergies.

Ms Chang, a 35-year-old sales promoter who declined to give her full name, said missing out on pre-event testing exemption was not consequential. The Chinese national added: “Most of us are here to work. We are busy and hardly have time to rest or go to these events, so we are not very affected.”

Sinovac’s vaccine is available at 24 private clinics under the Special Access Route (SAR) framework. The vaccine is not authorised by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) for use under the Pandemic Special Access Route.

Property agent Peter Jiang, 31, said he was shocked when he found out that he would not be exempt from pre-event testing after getting the Sinovac vaccine.

He had received his first jab of the Sinovac vaccine on Monday, and said he did so as he got a slot for it before he was notified by the Government to register for the national vaccination programme.

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Mr Jiang said he also opted for Sinovac as he felt it had fewer side effects compared with the Pfizer and Moderna ones. He added that he did not suffer any side effects after his first jab.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology, which teaches cells to make a protein that prompts an immune response.

The Sinovac vaccine uses deactivated coronaviruses to trigger an immune response, another conventional vaccine technology.

Engineer Laura Wei, 36, registered for the Sinovac vaccine in the hope that she would have an easier time in future when visiting her relatives in China, whom she has not seen in two years.

Similarly, Mr Brandon Wei, 34, whose family is in China, said being able to travel to China is his primary concern. “There was no strong incentive for me to be vaccinated until Sinovac came along,” said the financial consultant, who took his first dose on June 22.

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Among those opting for the Sinovac jab are Chinese nationals, who said they trusted a vaccine from their own country.

When The Straits Times visited Mediview Clinic and Surgery and Pinnacle Family Clinic (Serangoon North) yesterday afternoon, 11 of 14 individuals waiting for their Sinovac vaccinations were Chinese nationals.

Two of them, Mr Wang Kun, 29, and Mr Qiu Shang, 35, both engineers, said: “What is important to us is being able to travel to and from China. We don’t mind not being exempted from pre-event testing.”

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