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Singapore ranks COVID vaccines by death rate—and Moderna comes out on top

January 10, 2022, 10:01 AM UTC
Updated January 10, 2022, 10:45 AM UTC

Singapore saw the fewest deaths among those administered with a Moderna Inc. shot and the most among those who received Sinovac Biontech Ltd.’s vaccine, as the city-state’s highly inoculated population provides a glimpse into how different immunizations are holding up in the real world.

Of the 802 people who died from COVID-19 last year in the city-state, 555 or about 70% weren’t fully vaccinated, health minister Ong Ye Kung told the parliament Monday, showing the life-saving impact of inoculation. 

Singapore found 11 deaths per 100,000 among people who received Sinovac shots and 7.8 deaths among those with Sinopharm. This number fell to 6.2 deaths for those with mRNA shots from Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and 1 fatality in those who were administered the vaccines from Moderna. 

While Ong added some caveats in his comments—the sample size was small and did not account for factors like age and timing of vaccine doses—the findings will likely add to concerns around the efficacy of Sinovac’s and Sinopharm Group’s inactivated virus jabs, which have been widely used in the developing world. Initial laboratory studies have already suggested that Sinovac, even with a booster dose, is not effective against the highly-transmissible omicron variant that’s now dominating the world. 

The new and highly mutated variant is not yet circulating widely in the city-state, which has recorded more than 285,000 COVID infections throughout the pandemic and largely relied on the mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to grapple with a virus surge caused by the Delta variant last year. About 87% of the total population was fully vaccinated as of Jan. 8, according to Ministry of Health data.

Living with Covid

Ong reiterated that the key strategy remains to live with COVID-19, which includes not locking down the country’s borders. The government “cannot over-liberalize all social activities” and remove all restrictions. Singapore will respond “flexibly and appropriately to twists and turns that the pandemic situation may take,” he said. 

Among other details from Ong’s remarks to Parliament:

  • Expects Omicron to become dominant variant within next few weeks
  • Singapore’s ICU manpower has increased by 12% over the past year to about 1800, and the city-state is training about 500 more staff to assist with such operations
  • There are no plans to introduce different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated children below 12 years in overall school settings, Ong said
  • Since vaccination for younger kids kicked off over the last few weeks, there have been no serious adverse events reported so far, senior minister of state for health Janil Puthucheary also said in parliament

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