SINGAPORE - From Dec 12, those aged 12 and above can get the bivalent Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty Covid-19 vaccine to enhance their protection against the Omicron variants of the coronavirus.
Those who are eligible will progressively receive a text message with a personalised booking link to make an appointment.
Those who have already booked an appointment to get the monovalent version of the jab can reschedule it to a date on or after Dec 12 to receive the updated bivalent version.
“We seek your patience and understanding that the SMS may take a couple of weeks to reach everyone,” the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Tuesday.
This latest move comes after a recommendation by the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination (EC19V) to switch from the monovalent version of the jab to the bivalent one for primary and booster vaccinations for those aged 12 and above.
The Health Sciences Authority granted interim authorisation on Oct 25 for Pfizer-BioNTech’s bivalent vaccine for people aged 12 and above.
Before then, the only bivalent vaccine available in Singapore was the one from Moderna, which was introduced at joint testing and vaccination centres here on Oct 14.
MOH said on Tuesday that the bivalent Moderna/Spikevax vaccine continues to be available to those aged 18 and above.
The ministry also accepted the EC19V’s recommendation that the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine may be used as the primary Covid-19 vaccination for children aged six months to four years as an alternative to the Moderna/Spikevax vaccine.
More details on the roll-out for this younger age group will be announced at a later date.
The EC19V said that safety data for the bivalent Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was consistent with that of the original monovalent version, and adverse events were mostly mild to moderate and resolved within days.
The committee added that there is currently no evidence that either bivalent vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna is better than the other in terms of protection against future Covid-19 variants.
It said either vaccine can be chosen for booster vaccination. Those who have already completed booster vaccinations with the bivalent Moderna vaccine do not need to get an additional bivalent Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine dose, and vice versa.
Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, vice-dean of global health at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said the vaccine dose is slightly higher for the Moderna bivalent vaccine, but there are otherwise no substantive differences between the two brands, including with respect to side effects.
They can also be mixed as there are no significant differences in effectiveness or side effects for those who mix vaccines versus those who do not, he added.
Said MOH: “The protection conferred by our high vaccination rate has enabled us to keep the number of severe cases and deaths much lower than in many other countries. As new Covid-19 variants continue to emerge, we urge those who are eligible to take the bivalent vaccine as an additional vaccine dose to ensure they continue to have good protection against Covid-19.”
All adults aged 18 and above were previously recommended to keep up to date with their Covid-19 vaccinations.
This means getting at least three doses of an mRNA or Novavax’s Nuvaxovid vaccine, or four doses of the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine, with the last vaccine dose less than five months ago.
With the extension of the bivalent Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty Covid-19 vaccine to those aged between 12 and 17, MOH said this group should also get an additional bivalent vaccine dose around five months after their last booster dose.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that from Dec 12, MOH will once again deploy mobile vaccination teams to the heartland to reach out to unvaccinated seniors in the community.
MOH said that about nine in 10 seniors aged 60 and above have minimum protection, and six in 10 are up to date with their Covid-19 vaccination.
However, there are still close to 40,000 eligible seniors who have not yet achieved minimum protection against Covid-19. The deployment of mobile vaccination teams is meant to make it more convenient for these seniors to get inoculated.
MOH said the mobile teams will be deployed to eight locations, including community centres and community clubs in Choa Chu Kang, Kampong Chai Chee, Teck Ghee and Toa Payoh Central, between Dec 12 and Jan 12, 2023.
The teams will be deployed at each site for three days before moving on to the next location, and the deployment schedule can be found online at https://gowhere.gov.sg
With the higher demand for Covid-19 vaccines, MOH said that it will facilitate walk-ins at joint testing and vaccination centres only for healthcare workers and those aged 50 and above.
Those who plan to walk in to these centres for their jabs without an appointment should avoid peak periods on Fridays and Saturday mornings, and opt instead for less crowded hours on Mondays to Thursdays before 6.30pm, and on Saturdays after 2pm.
MOH said polyclinics will continue to accept walk-ins for only those aged 80 and above.
Mr Ong had said on Sunday that Singaporeans should expect a new wave of Covid-19 infections with more people travelling and the upcoming year-end festivities.
As at noon on Dec 5, the seven-day moving average of new local cases stood at 1,000.