This photo shows the quality control and packing of pharmaceutical products inside the coldroom storage at the Zuellig Pharma facility in Singapore. (AFP / Roslan Rahman)

Posts misrepresent news article about Singapore’s vaccination programme

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Multiple Facebook posts have shared a news article reporting on Singapore’s Covid-19 vaccination scheme. The posts claim the city-state has rejected Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in favour of China’s CoronaVac jab, which is manufactured by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac. The claim is misleading: there is no mention of Singapore’s purported rejection of Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna shots in the news report. As of June 17, 2021, the Singapore government has been vaccinating residents with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, while CoronaVac is available at private clinics.

The claim was shared here on Facebook on June 8, 2021.

It was posted by Arnond Sakworawich, a Thai royalist and university lecturer with more than 80,000 followers.

The post links to this article about Singapore’s national vaccination programme, published by Singapore-based broadcaster CNA (Channel News Asia).

“I am confident that Singaporeans are smarter than the three-fingered salute gang. In Singapore, people are rejecting Pfizer and Moderna vaccines because they can’t tolerate allergic reactions, and asking for Sinovac instead,” the Thai-language caption reads.

The “three-fingered salute gang” refers to anti-government protesters in Thailand who staged rallies across the country in 2020.

The term is also locally referred to the opposition Move Forward party, who are seen as pro-democracy supporters.

During the censure debate, a member of the Move Forward party criticised the Thai government’s Covid-19 vaccines procurement and questioned its over-reliance on one company.

He also questioned the efficacy of Sinovac's CoronaVac jab.

Other posts with a similar claim were shared here, here and here on Facebook.

The claim, however, is misleading.

News article

The misleading posts misrepresent Channel News Asia’s (CNA) article.

The article, published on June 4, 2021, is titled “People rejected, allergic to Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines to be reimbursed if they get Sinovac COVID-19 jab at private clinics.”

The article reports that either those who are allergic to, or are “rejected” from taking Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines, will be reimbursed by the Singaporean government if they opt for the Sinovac COVID-19 jab at private clinics.

Prior to vaccination, screening forms and vaccination information sheets for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines are given at vaccination sites.

According to Singapore’s Ministry of Health’s website, people who are assessed to be ineligible for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines may be able to “get vaccinated later if data become available that it is safe to receive the vaccination”, or “may be able to get vaccinated with other COVID-19 vaccines.”

There is no mention that Singapore has rejected the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines.

Singapore’s vaccination programme

Singapore is currently using Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna as the main Covid-19 vaccines. The vaccine is free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents.

Singapore health experts encourage people with underlying diseases and a history of severe allergic reactions to wait until there is more data to evaluate the safety of Covid-19 vaccines, The Strait Times reported in February 2021.

According to this statement published on the website of Singapore’s Ministry of Health on June 5, only those who had severe allergies or were allergic to the first dose are eligible to get vaccinated with the CoronaVac vaccine for free at the approved private clinics.

Apart from CoronaVac, the Singapore government is also evaluating other suitable non-mRNA vaccine choices.