Covid-19 booster jabs likely to be rolled out to healthcare and other front-line workers

The Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination is deliberating on recommending booster shots for groups such as healthcare workers and front-line workers. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Covid-19 booster shots are likely to be rolled out to healthcare and other front-line workers, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Saturday (Oct 2).

This plan is currently being deliberated by Singapore's Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination (EC19V), he added at a press conference held by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19.

Singapore began giving Covid-19 vaccine booster shots from September to seniors aged 60 and above, residents of aged-care facilities, and those whose immune systems are compromised.

Booster shots are also being extended to those aged 50 to 59. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said at the press conference that SMSes were sent to 50,000 people in this age group on Saturday to invite them to go for their booster jab.

To date, 550,000 SMS invitations have been sent out and 350,000 people have either booked an appointment or received a jab.

A total of 237,000 people have already received their booster shots.

These are significant and encouraging numbers, said Mr Ong.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a Facebook post on Saturday, urged those who have received the SMSes to go for their jabs, adding that he received his booster shot two weeks ago.

"After completing two doses of vaccine, you should already be protected from Covid-19. But the protection falls over time. This extra third dose will boost your protection back up, and further reduce your chances of falling seriously ill," he said.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said booster vaccinations are an important way to protect people from Covid-19 and slow its transmission in the face of rising local cases.

The EC19V is hence deliberating on recommending booster shots for a few more population groups, such as healthcare workers, front-line workers and those in other vulnerable settings.

More details will be announced by the committee when they are ready, MOH said.

It added that it will await the formal recommendations of EC19V and is ready to support this extension.

"All eligible persons are encouraged to receive the booster vaccination when it is offered to them, and those who have yet to be vaccinated are strongly urged to do so," the ministry said.

On whether vaccinations will be made mandatory for the most vulnerable groups such as seniors, Singapore's director of medical services, Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, said the authorities are not ready to look into this issue.

This is because the vaccines are still not fully approved for use by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) but are instead being used via the Pandemic Special Access Route.

"We are waiting for further evaluation to determine whether HSA will be able to grant the vaccines we currently use the full approval status," said Prof Mak.

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He also noted that the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine has received full approval status with the United States Food and Drug Administration. The manufacturers have submitted data to Singapore and that is undergoing the evaluation process.

"We look forward to HSA's decision soon," Prof Mak said.

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