Range of considerations in national vaccine schemes

Flu vaccination being administered to a patient.
Flu vaccination being administered to a patient.PHOTO: CMG

We thank Dr Leong Hoe Nam for suggestions on the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule (NCIS) (Add flu and hepatitis A jabs to National Childhood Immunisation Programme, Aug 1).

The National Adult Immunisation Schedule and NCIS were established to provide recommendations on vaccinations to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases that are of significant healthcare burden to Singapore.

The schedules aim to raise awareness of important vaccinations and increase the uptake of these vaccines.

The Ministry of Health (MOH), in consultation with the national Expert Committee on Immunisation (ECI), regularly reviews available vaccines for inclusion in the national immunisation schedules.

In general, the considerations take into account local disease burden, vaccine safety, clinical efficacy and cost effectiveness of the vaccines.

Hepatitis A is transmitted through contaminated food or water and the key to preventing the spread of hepatitis A lies in the safe handling, cooking and consumption of food, and proper hand hygiene to prevent cross-contamination.

As Singapore has good hygiene and sanitation, the incidence of hepatitis A in Singapore is low at fewer than 90 cases annually from 2013 to 2017.

Vaccination against hepatitis A is, therefore, currently not recommended at a national level. However, persons travelling to countries where hepatitis A is prevalent, or perceive that they may be at higher risk of acquiring hepatitis A, are advised to consult their doctor for advice and obtain the vaccines, if necessary, to protect themselves.

Beyond the national immunisation schedules, MOH also issues guidelines to medical practitioners on recommended vaccinations for groups which are more susceptible to developing serious complications from vaccine-preventable diseases.

An example is the influenza vaccine. MOH has informed medical practitioners to advise their patients on the importance of influenza vaccination for children between six months and five years, persons with certain medical conditions, and those aged 65 years or older. We encourage the public to discuss their vaccination needs and suitability with their doctor.

MOH will continue to regularly review our vaccination policies and inclusion of vaccines into the schedules, in consultation with the ECI.

Vernon Lee

Director, Communicable Diseases Division

Ministry of Health

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2019, with the headline 'Range of considerations in national vaccine schemes'. Print Edition | Subscribe