Summary

Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Sinovac: A look at three key COVID-19 vaccines

Dec 18, 2020 | 🚀 Fathership

By the end of this week, people in the country worst-hit by COVID-19 could gain access to a second COVID-19 vaccine. On Tuesday (Dec 15), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) endorsed mRNA-1273 - the vaccine candidate made by American biotechnology company Moderna - as safe and effective.

This paves the way for the vaccine's emergency authorisation, a decision that the FDA will make after a panel of outside advisers meets on Thursday.

If authorised, Moderna's vaccine will follow the one from Pfizer-BioNTech, which the US and Britain have already begun administering to the general public.

Singapore has also approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with the first shipment expected by the end of the year.

Other countries such as Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Kuwait have also authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. A big group that could soon follow, if the European Union gives its final approval, which could come as early as Dec 23.

A third COVID-19 vaccine, developed by China's Sinovac Biotech, is also currently in late-stage trials. Indonesia already has 1.2 million doses of CoronaVac, the vaccine it has been testing since August.

Here’s a look at how the three COVID-19 vaccines differ:

PFIZER-BIONTECH

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech was the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by the US FDA for emergency use.

How it works: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. mRNA vaccines teach our cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. This is different from traditional vaccines which put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies.

Storage: Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccines need to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius, which presents logistical challenges, especially for poorer countries.

Efficacy: 95 per cent

Rollout: Britain was the first country in the world to roll out injections on Dec 8, with the US following around a week later on Dec 16. Singapore, Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia have also authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

MODERNA

The initial results from Moderna's vaccine were described a month ago by the US' leading expert on infectious diseases Anthony Fauci as "stunningly impressive".

How it works: Just like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine uses mRNA technology.

Storage: Can be kept for 30 days with refrigeration, six months at minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Efficacy: 94.5 per cent

Rollout: None as of Dec 16.

SINOVAC

Developed by China's Sinovac Biotech, the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, is currently undergoing phase 3 clinical trials in places such as Brazil and Indonesia.

How it works: Sinovac's vaccine uses inactivated vaccine technology, which uses a weakened form of a live virus to stimulate our bodies to produce an immune response. This vaccine is similar to the flu and chickenpox vaccines.

Storage: The vaccine can be stored at normal fridge temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius and may remain stable for up to three years. This may be an attractive option for places where access to refrigeration is challenging.

Efficacy: Unknown

Rollout: None as of Dec 16.

Source: CNA/lk(ac)

PAP members call on party to embrace diversity and be open to opposing views

Nov 29, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership
Two People’s Action Party (PAP) members have called on the ruling party to embrace diversity and listen to opposing views, with one Member of Parliament (MP), Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin, going as far as to say that PAP has to fix its "empathy deficit and grow more comfortable with understanding views we disagree with".

The MP for Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) was among some party activists who spoke at the annual PAP convention on Sunday (Nov 28). There were about 2,000 party activists as well as members from the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) who attended the event both physically at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre and online.

Ms Gho Sze Kee, branch secretary of the party’s Bukit Timah branch, also talked about how the party needed to introduce a diversity of perspectives to avoid the dangers of groupthink and being part of an echo chamber.

Addressing fellow party activists in her speech, Ms Nadia acknowledged that there is a tendency for people to live in “bubbles”, which refer to how individuals are often surrounded by others who look or think the same way as them, and that these “bubbles” have led to social divisions.

And these differences have played out online in the way party members have responded to opposing views as if they were threats.

However, she urged party members to be conscious of their own inherent biases and not view these differences as a threat, but as opportunities to have hard conversations.

“I hope we have them, and in listening, be at least open to the possibility of changing our minds,” she added.

“More than any trait during this time, I call for empathy that goes two ways. Empathy should drive us to amplify voices of others, to join forces for a shared cause, for our future.

“We have always been a party of action, and empathy is how we will continue to stay relevant, and continue to take meaningful action for our fellow Singaporeans.”

Recounting her own experience as a party activist since 2012, Ms Gho, 42, said PAP’s biggest pressing need is to ensure that it renews its members at every level of the party’s hierarchy, and not only in the candidates it fields during a general election.

Citing some branch-level statistics, she said that there are only 12 branch secretaries who are female, compared with 81 who are male.

“We need to ensure our party’s membership at the branch level truly reflects the diversity of Singapore. And we have to make sure that diversity counts when anticipating ground needs, giving inputs to policy formulation, and communicating our messages to our voters,” said Ms Gho.

When asked by reporters later if her point about PAP needing to embrace people from diverse backgrounds extends to people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Ms Gho agreed.

Recurring theme

The need to embrace people from diverse backgrounds and different viewpoints was a recurring theme at Sunday’s party convention.

PAP’s secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong, who is also Singapore’s Prime Minister, made similar points in his speech.

He had said that the party must show that it is not afraid of opposing views or being challenged, and that voters today want to see more debate, contestation and questioning of established ideas.

“We welcome good ideas, regardless of who proposed them… We also have to rebut wrong views, if possible gently, but when necessary firmly,” said Mr Lee.

Speaking to reporters after the event, MP for MacPherson ward Tin Pei Ling said that embracing diverse viewpoints would strengthen trust.

“It’s not just me pushing things to you and you have to accept it, or I just say things that you like to listen. But I explain to you so that even if we may not see eye-to-eye 100 per cent on everything, you know where I am coming from, that it’s not self-serving,” she added.

“And so, it comes back to what are we in politics for? It’s about serving people. And if that’s the case, then, having that empathy, bridging those differences, listening to people and to willingly engage and see whether we can have a midpoint perhaps, and letting you know where I come from. I think that’s important.”

Also speaking at Sunday’s convention was Mr Ling Weihong, 40, branch secretary of Sengkang Central, which is currently under the Workers’ Party.

He talked about the difficulties operating in an opposition ward, but said that his team would continue to work to win back Sengkang GRC, though he acknowledged that it would be an uphill task.

Representing the trade unions, Mr Sanjeev Tiwari, general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees, talked about the need to reinforce the strong ties between NTUC and PAP.

He said the collaboration between both organisations is mostly happening within the leadership level and that it needs to be extended to all members of both organisations.