Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh

There is still no substantial evidence to show that mRNA vaccines are more effective in preventing COVID-19 deaths than those with inactivated vaccines such as Sinopharm.

This is the view of Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh when asked if he was concerned about a Singapore report which breaks down COVID deaths by vaccine.

The report suggested that most of the deaths reported in Singapore were people who got Sinovac or Sinopharm shots while only a few deaths were those who were administered a Moderna vaccine.

Singapore has a high inoculation rate. Of the 802 people who succumbed to COVID-19 last year in the city state, 70 per cent were not fully vaccinated.

At the ministry’s weekly media briefing yesterday, Minister Deyalsingh quoted Singapore’s Health Minister, Ong Ye Kung, who, in response to the report said, the sample size was small and did not account for factors like age and timing of vaccine doses.

“I just want to urge us that when we are reading reports, not to cherry pick anything to fit a narrative. Look at the entire report and let us make reasonable conclusions and not assumptions,” Deyalsingh urged.

However, epidemiologist, Dr Avery Hinds, said any argument about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines will be ruled out by the current vaccine booster program.

“Once you reach full vaccination, whether it’s with an MRNA or the killed virus, whichever vaccine is available and is given to you, your immune system will be boosted by continuing with the booster schedule,” Hinds affirmed.

“Therefore, the concern that may arise from whether one or the other gives you longer protection, is mitigated by the fact that there is a booster program,” he added.

Meanwhile, Hinds said health officials are willing to consider reducing the quarantine period for infected people and their contacts only if global evidence suggests that it is safe to do so without increasing the risk of transmission.

The current policy requires someone, who has tested positive for the virus, to remain in quarantine for 21 days while anyone exposed to an infected person to isolate for 14 days.

“The isolation period for those infected has been set at 21 days really to minimize the possibility of someone being infectious, meaning shedding virus by being out and about and contributing to the spread of the virus while they are ill or even if they don’t feel ill,” Hinds explained.

“People may test negative prior to that but as the WHO itself has actually pointed out, the best use of the testing resource at this point in time is not utilizing for out testing to release individuals from isolation so what you do is create a system that may err on the side of caution but reduces the risk of infectious people moving around,” he added.

Hinds reminded that a person can begin exhibiting symptoms as much as 14 days after exposure.

“They are not unnecessary and just because someone feels inconvenienced by them does not mean it is invalid,” he said.