SINGAPORE - Singaporeans under the age of 18 will be eligible for full subsidies for vaccinations under the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule (NCIS) as well as childhood development screenings at all Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) general practitioner (GP) clinics and polyclinics by the end of this year, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Home Affairs Amrin Amin on Thursday (March 5).
The NCIS includes eight types of vaccines, including those to guard against tuberculosis, hepatitis B and pneumococcal infections, which can lead to pneumonia, meningitis and blood infections.
Singaporean adults will also be eligible for means-tested subsidies for vaccinations under the National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS). This includes seven types of vaccines, including those for influenza, the human papillomavirus (HPV) and pneumococcal infections.
The subsidies at polyclinics are 75 per cent for the lower- to middle-income group and 50 per cent for all the others. They correspond to those who have the blue and orange Chas cards.
Pioneer Generation seniors will get an additional 50 per cent off, while those from the Merdeka Generation will get another 25 per cent off.
"We are studying ways to help those who may have difficulties going to polyclinics and Chas GPs, such as nursing home residents, to benefit from these subsidies," Mr Amrin said in Parliament, during the debate on the Ministry of Health budget.
The MOH will introduce fee caps on subsidised NAIS and NCIS vaccinations administered at Chas GP clinics. Details of this will be released at a later date.
Immunisations are a critical way of preventing the spread of contagious diseases, and vaccines are especially important for at-risk populations such as young children and seniors.
In response to Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera's question on the coverage of childhood vaccinations and how adult vaccination coverage can be raised, Mr Amrin said the coverage for childhood vaccinations in Singapore is high, with most vaccinations exceeding 95 per cent coverage in the past five years.
He noted that this is "due to efforts in health promotion, comprehensive childhood immunisation services and a robust school health service".
With the roll out of the subsidies, Mr Amrin hopes that more adults will take up the vaccines, as he aims to increase the coverage among them to over 50 per cent by 2025.
"Our aim is to reduce the number of people who fall ill from vaccine-preventable diseases. Singaporeans with chronic medical conditions are particularly vulnerable and fall sick more easily. If diseases can be prevented, we can gain system-wide savings in the long term," said Mr Amrin.
The MOH introduced the NAIS in November 2017 to facilitate the take-up of important vaccinations among adults. However, the National Population Health Survey 2016/2017 found that the vaccination coverage for some of the vaccines have been estimated to be low - 14 per cent for influenza vaccination and 12 per cent for pneumococcal vaccination for those aged between 65 and 74 years old.