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Moderna vaccines the best — and Sinovac least effective — at stopping covid deaths, Singapore data suggests

An elderly resident waits to receive her coronavirus vaccine in Singapore in September 2021. (Ore Huiying/Bloomberg News)
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In a real-world indicator of how coronavirus vaccines are performing, Singapore has released new figures suggesting shots produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are much more effective at preventing deaths than the Chinese-developed Sinopharm and Sinovac doses.

Eight hundred and two people died of covid-19 in the city-state in 2021, of whom 555 were not fully vaccinated, while 247 received one of several locally available vaccines, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told lawmakers on Monday.

In terms of deaths per 100,000 people, there were 11 for those immunized with Sinovac and 7.8 for the Sinopharm vaccine, the state-affiliated Straits Times newspaper reported. The rate dropped for people who received messenger RNA — or mRNA — vaccines, with 6.2 deaths for Pfizer-BioNTech and one fatality for Moderna.

“These rates are only indicative since they do not account for other factors which can affect mortality, such as the age and timing of vaccination,” Ong said Monday.

While the sample size offered by Singapore is small, the data adds to concerns about the efficacy of so-called “inactivated virus” vaccines, which are in widespread use in China and much of the developing world. Such vaccines have a higher incidence of breakthrough infections and may be less effective against the highly transmissible omicron variant. (Major Chinese pharmaceutical companies, including Sinopharm and Sinovac, say they are working to create vaccines using mRNA technology.)

The discrepancy in fatalities is also notable because the majority of Singapore’s residents received mRNA shots. Sinopharm is not covered by the Southeast Asian country’s national vaccine program and can only be administered via private clinics, while Singapore only made free Sinovac shots readily available in October.

Threat of omicron keeps China walled off, as scientists search for more-effective vaccines

Malaysia’s health minister said this month that officials were studying whether a fourth shot may be necessary for residents originally vaccinated with Sinovac. Nearly half of all global vaccinations delivered so far are made by Chinese manufacturers.

Singapore has one of the world’s most highly vaccinated populations: It has fully immunized 87 percent of its 5.7 million residents, with 47 percent having also received booster doses. The country has, so far, sidestepped any major outbreak of the omicron variant. It has relied on vaccines and strict social-distancing measures to keep its trade-reliant economy open to the world, and prevent further border closures or a complete lockdown.

China has returned to its harshest controls in two years, as it seeks to contain omicron. The renewed lockdowns reflect official concerns about whether its vaccines can hold up against the variant.

Read more:

Vaccine makers were just beginning to catch up to demand. Then omicron hit.

Threat of omicron keeps China walled off, as scientists search for more effective vaccines

Singapore looks to ease coronavirus restrictions on migrant laborers after confining them for over a year

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