Coronavirus Singapore

Booster shots may begin here around CNY if needed

They may become necessary to better fight new variants: Minister

Students getting their Covid-19 jabs at the vaccination centre at Bishan Community Club last month. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that those who are fully vaccinated are likely to need booster shots as the vaccines are effective for between one an
Students getting their Covid-19 jabs at the vaccination centre at Bishan Community Club last month. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that those who are fully vaccinated are likely to need booster shots as the vaccines are effective for between one and two years. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Booster shots for the Covid-19 vaccine may begin around Chinese New Year next year, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Thursday.

He was responding to questions from members of the public about living with Covid-19, through an Instagram live broadcast.

They had asked the minister if booster shots for the Covid-19 vaccine could be expected in the near future.

Mr Ong replied that those who are fully vaccinated will most likely need booster shots, and the authorities are looking into this, said Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, which reported on the Instagram live session.

If booster shots are needed, people may be allowed to get them around Chinese New Year, which is in February next year.

He added that as the vaccines are effective for between one and two years, the booster shots may be needed to augment immunity and better fight against new variants that may emerge.

"The Chinese New Year in February next year will be about a year after the (national vaccination drive) was launched. That may be when people would start to take the booster shots," said Mr Ong, who is co-chair of the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force.

He added that current vaccine supplies are enough to vaccinate the population, but if booster shots are needed, Singapore might need to order more.

The Republic's vaccination programme began in December last year, starting with healthcare workers, and the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty and Moderna mRNA vaccines are being used.

In April, Singapore's director of medical services, Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, said those who have been fully vaccinated may be protected for 15 to 18 months.

As Covid-19 becomes endemic around the world, Singapore may have to sustain a comprehensive, multi-year vaccination programme, said the co-chairs of the task force, who penned their broad plans for the new normal in The Straits Times last month.

They added that booster shots may be needed in the future to sustain a high level of protection.

In addition to Mr Ong, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong are co-chairs of the task force.

In an ST report on June 26, Singapore Medical Association president Tan Yia Swam said recommendations will be made on the need for regular booster shots once more data on the long-term effectiveness of the vaccines is available.

During the Instagram live session, Mr Ong also said that the authorities have not ruled out the possibility of using another type of vaccine for the booster shots. This means that those who take the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty shots may not need to stick to the same vaccine for the booster jab.

The minister added that mixing vaccines is believed to be feasible, and the authorities here and abroad are studying the effectiveness of this.

Responding to questions about travel, Mr Ong said in the Instagram live session that those who have been fully vaccinated will be first in line to travel abroad for leisure.

"If you have been vaccinated, you can imagine that one day you can fly to Germany to watch football without having to quarantine, and you don't need to be put on stay-home notice after returning to Singapore. You only need to be tested for Covid-19."

He added: "If you want to travel, it is best to get vaccinated first. When overseas travel resumes, it is likely that only those (who) have been vaccinated can go abroad."

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2021, with the headline Booster shots may begin here around CNY if needed. Subscribe