D.he Chinese corona vaccines do not have a good reputation, especially since some countries with high vaccines for Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines have now experienced severe outbreaks. But in front of the small clinic in the Chinese quarter of Singapore, a queue of dozen men and women has formed who want to be vaccinated with the product of the Chinese manufacturer Sinovac. The receptionist at the “Chinatown Wellness Clinic” also has a pile of slips of paper on the desk in front of her, filled with hundreds of names and phone numbers of interested parties. “We are completely overwhelmed by the rush. We don’t manage to call everyone back, ”she tells the FAZ. Other of the 24 private clinics that are allowed to dispense the vaccine in Singapore also report that the phones are constantly ringing.
The high demand for Sinovac in the “smart” city-state, which is always considered a pioneer in the region, is proving to be a gift for Chinese vaccination diplomacy these days. It comes as a surprise because the vaccine is not part of Singapore’s official vaccination program. The rich city-state, which is one of the Asian model countries with a successful pandemic fight, has so far relied on vaccines from BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna. With the opening of vaccinations for children from the age of twelve and adults under 39 years of age, almost every resident, whether with Singaporean citizenship or without, can be immunized free of charge with one of these vaccines, which are based on the modern mRNA method.
Path to a “new normal”
The benefits of vaccines, which have achieved efficacy rates of 95 and 94 percent in clinical trials, are actually obvious. According to the WHO, the Sinovac vaccine only prevents symptomatic diseases in 51 percent of cases. In addition, doubts about their effectiveness, especially against highly contagious variants, are currently growing in countries where Chinese vaccines dominate. Waves of infection have been reported from countries with a high proportion of Sinovac, such as the Seychelles, China and Mongolia. In Indonesia, doctors and nurses fell ill with Covid-19 despite existing vaccinations with Sinovac. This is not known for other vaccines, said Singapore medical director Kenneth Mak recently.
For Singaporeans, the Chinese vaccine also has other disadvantages. Since it is not part of the official program, there is no government financial aid in the event of severe side effects. And unlike BioNTech and Moderna, a small fee is due, even if only from twelve to 16 euros per vaccination. The 5.7 million residents of the city-state cannot actually complain about the state vaccination program.
More than half of them have already received at least one vaccination. Since the weekend, immunization has been even more diligent. The goal is to have three quarters of the population vaccinated by the national holiday in August. Singapore sees this as a prerequisite for its plan to find a way out of the cycle of lockdown and border closings into a “new normal”. The number of infections is also still low due to strict precautionary measures.