SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced earlier this month that there will soon be changes to Covid-19 treatment subsidies, and that second Covid-19 vaccine booster jabs will be offered to those aged 50 and above.
The Straits Times answers some questions about the new measures.
Q: Who is now eligible for the second booster dose?
A: As of June 10, all those aged 50 and above are eligible for the second Covid-19 vaccine booster dose. This is an update from the previous announcement on April 22, which said that those aged 60 and above were eligible for the shot.
Those aged 18 and above who are vulnerable to severe Covid-19 also no longer need a doctor's referral to get their second booster dose.
Q: How long after the first booster dose will my antibodies against Covid-19 wane? Should I get the second booster shot?
A: Associate Professor Ashley St John, from Duke-NUS Medical School's Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme, said data has shown that the second booster shot will provide additional protection and is very safe.
"For (eligible) age groups, it is clear that the benefits outweigh the risks," she said.
She added that everyone's antibodies wane at different rates, making it difficult to predict individual responses to the vaccine.
However, waning does not mean the antibodies become completely ineffective.
"Our immune system slows down antibody production after a few months following vaccination, but it still maintains memory responses that can be quickly recalled in response to an infection or another booster," said Prof St John.
She added that a study from Israel has suggested that a second booster dose will be beneficial around four months after the first, and can reduce the risk of breakthrough infections or reinfections.
Data from the United States' Centres for Disease Control and Prevention also suggests infections, emergency room visits, hospitalisations and deaths are reduced after a second booster dose, said Prof St John.
Q: Why are those aged 50 to 59 being offered the booster dose now?
A: The Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination has said that data has shown that the risk of severe Covid-19 increases in those aged 50 to 59, and the booster is being offered to enhance their protection.
Q: I am in my 50s. Will my fully vaccinated status lapse if I do not take the second booster?
A: Currently, those in this age group will not lose their fully vaccinated status as a result of not taking the second booster shot.
Q: When should I get my second booster?
A: The Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination has said that the second booster dose should be taken around five months after the first booster.
Q: I was recently infected with Covid-19. How long should I wait before taking my booster dose?
A: MOH recommends waiting about a month after having Covid-19 before taking the booster.
"This gives your immune system time to recover from the infection so that a booster can be more effective," explained Prof St John.
Q: How much will it cost me to see a doctor at a polyclinic for Covid-19 after July 1?
A: MOH has said that from July 1, Singapore citizens can expect to pay between $6.90 and $14 for their consultation with a doctor at the polyclinic.
Other charges, including medication prescribed based on doctors' assessment, will vary depending on the patient's profile and complexity of the conditions.
Polyclinics will continue to provide government-funded swabs to eligible symptomatic individuals at no charge.