SINGAPORE - A person's fully vaccinated status will lapse nine months after the last dose of their primary vaccination series, said the Ministry of Health on Wednesday (Jan 5).
It added that from Feb 14, Singapore will require those aged 18 and above to get a Covid-19 booster jab to maintain one's fully vaccinated status.
Singapore is bracing itself for a large Omicron wave that could see a peak of 15,000 cases a day in the worst-case scenario.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the Omicron variant has shown itself to be more transmissible than Delta, and that the country has to prepare for a “much bigger infection wave” than was seen with the Delta variant last October.
The number of Omicron cases in Singapore has risen, with 1,281 such cases in the past week. Of these, 233 are local ones, which make up 18 per cent of the local cases in the past week, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).
At its peak late last year, the Delta variant saw Singapore register about 5,000 cases a day. Omicron cases could exceed this number “by a few times”, Mr Ong noted.
“At its peak, Delta infections were doubling at six to eight days. Omicron infections may double in two to three days,” he said.
Director of medical services Kenneth Mak said a worst-case scenario may see Singapore recording as many as 15,000 cases a day at the peak of the Omicron wave, as he urged people to take their booster jab when it is offered to them.
One silver lining is that data out of various countries such as South Africa, the US and Canada has consistently shown that Omicron infections are less severe than Delta cases among the vaccinated, and even less so among those who have received their boosters, said Mr Ong.
This is why from Feb 14, the fully vaccinated status for a person who only has had their primary series of vaccination will lapse nine months after their last jab.
Mr Ong said: "270 days, or nine months, after you have taken your second dose of the mRNA (vaccine) or third dose of the Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccine, and you have not taken your booster, your full vaccination status will lapse.
"This will, among other things, affect your access to vaccination-differentiated venues such as malls, restaurants and libraries.
"People here will be invited to take their booster jab five months after their second mRNA jab, or after their third dose of the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccine."
Unlike the primary regime, a person is considered fully vaccinated from the same day he receives his booster jab, without a need to factor two weeks' time.
"On Feb 14, if your last vaccine dose was taken before May 20, 2021, which is 270 days, or nine months, ago, your fully vaccinated status will lapse," said Mr Ong.
Those who have not yet reached the nine-month expiry by then, or who are medically ineligible for boosters will not be affected.
Mr Ong added that the effective date of the policy has been set "quite awhile from now" to give people the chance to take their booster jabs early.
Invitations for boosters have been sent out five months after one has completed their primary vaccination series to facilitate bookings for appointments in the coming weeks, said Mr Ong.
For seniors aged 60 and above, invitations to take their booster dose will be sent out a bit earlier, he added.
Giving figures on the booster vaccination take-up rate, Associate Professor Mak said that among those aged above 30 who are eligible for their boosters, nearly 70 per cent have received their jabs. The figure was at 89 per cent for eligible seniors aged above 60.
The revised policy on who is considered fully vaccinated has the full support of the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination (EC19V), he added.
"We urge as many people as possible who are eligible to come forward and receive their booster vaccinations as soon as possible... (as) this is important to mitigate the risk of waning antibody levels that can occur over time and to boost the vaccine-derived protection against severe infection, reducing the risk of being infected by Delta or Omicron variants," said Prof Mak.
He added that Singapore is still seeing Delta infections, and not just Omicron, therefore getting vaccinated and boosted can protect against both variants.
"There's no good reason to think that you may skip the booster vaccination simply because you think that Omicron infections are potentially less serious," he added.