With the approval of the Pfizer Comirnaty bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine for use, Singaporeans now have two bivalent vaccine options available for them. Together with the bivalent Moderna/Spikevax vaccine that was made available on October 14 2022, residents in Singapore have more robust options to enhance their protection against COVID-19 when it is their turn to receive a booster. Dr Edwin Chng, medical director at Parkway Shenton, answers some commonly asked questions about the 2 recently approved bivalent COVID-19 mRNA vaccines – what they are, their side effects, effectiveness, and who can take them.
What is a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine?
When a vaccine is ‘bivalent’, it means that the vaccine stimulates an immune response against 2 different antigens. In the case of bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, this means protection against 2 different variants of the COVID-19 virus – the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the Omicron variant(s).
Specifically, the bivalent Moderna/Spikevax vaccine targets the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and the Omicron BA.1 variant, while the Pfizer Comirnaty bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine targets the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants.
Compared with the original mRNA vaccines, these new bivalent COVID-19 vaccines offer added protection against newer COVID-19 variants, including XBB.
How do the bivalent COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection?
Since the bivalent COVID-19 mRNA vaccines target both the original and Omicron variants of the COVID-19 virus, they help the body mount a broader immune response when these viruses are detected. This helps to increase the strength and duration someone is protected against current COVID-19 variants, and may also offer better protection against future variants.
According to clinical trials, the bivalent Moderna/Spikevax vaccine is capable of generating an antibody response that is 75% better than the original vaccine against the Omicron variant, resulting in better protection against severe disease. The Health Sciences Authority said that it may also stimulate antibodies from the Omicron BA.4/5, Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma variants.
Are the bivalent COVID-19 vaccines safe?
Both bivalent versions of the Moderna/Spikevax and Pfizer Comirnaty vaccines have similar safety profiles as their originals, and are regarded as safe. Like the original COVID-19 vaccines offered, the observed side effects have been mostly mild-to-moderate, and go away within a few days.
Common adverse side effects include:
- Injection site pain, redness, or swelling
- Muscle and joint pains
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Nausea and vomiting
Who can receive the bivalent COVID-19 vaccines?
Individuals who have completed their primary COVID-19 vaccinations and are eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccine boosters can receive these bivalent COVID-19 vaccines.
Those aged 18 and above will be able to receive the Moderna/Spikevax bivalent vaccine once it is available to them, whereas those aged 12 and above will be able to receive the Pfizer Comirnaty bivalent vaccine once it is available to them.
Where can I receive the bivalent COVID-19 vaccines?
The Moderna/Spikevax vaccine is the only bivalent vaccine currently available and is only offered at the Joint Testing & Vaccination Centres.
Please visit www.gowhere.gov.sg/vaccine to locate a vaccination location near you.
Article reviewed by Dr Edwin Chng, medical director at Parkway Shenton, The Arcade (level 19)
CNA. (2022, October 25). Singapore grants interim authorisation or Pfizer bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/pfizer-comirnaty-bivalent-covid-19-booster-vaccine-jab-shot-hsa-authorisation-3024286
Ministry of Health, Singapore. (2022, October 7). Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination Recommends COVID-19 Vaccination For Children Aged 6 Months and Above, and Recommends the Moderna/Spikevax Bivalent Original/Omicron COVID-19 Vaccine for Ages 18 and Above. Retrieved from https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/expert-committee-on-covid-19-vaccination-recommends-covid-19-vaccination-for-children-aged-6-months-and-above-and-recommends-the-moderna-spikevax-bivalent-original-omicron-covid-19-vaccine-for-ages-18-years-and-above
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