SINGAPORE - The Republic hopes more vulnerable seniors will get their boosters as a new bivalent vaccine was made available here on Monday.
More than 386,000 people in the country have received a shot of a bivalent Covid-19 vaccine since it was introduced in mid-October, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.
Meanwhile, a bivalent version of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty Covid-19 vaccine was made available on Monday for those aged 12 and above. Previously, only Moderna’s bivalent vaccine was available here after it was rolled out on Oct 14.
Bivalent vaccines provide protection against the original Sars-CoV-2 strain of the virus, as well as the Omicron sub-variants.
The introduction of another vaccine type may encourage more people to come forward to get their boosters, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told reporters on Monday.
He said about 70 deaths or intensive care cases per 10,000 infections occur among those aged 70 and above with no minimum protection. This is compared with the general population, where about five in every 10,000 infections end up in the intensive care unit or die.
The emphasis is still on getting senior citizens up to date with their vaccinations, he said.
MOH said on Dec 7 that about nine in 10 seniors aged 60 and above have minimum protection, which means they have taken three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Novavax/Nuvaxovid vaccines or four doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac.
Six in 10 are up to date with their Covid-19 vaccinations, meaning they have taken their last booster in the past six to 12 months.
However, there are still about 40,000 eligible seniors who have not yet achieved minimum protection against Covid-19.
The pandemic situation here is “calm and stable”, with low case numbers and a lower number of patients in hospitals following the XBB wave, Mr Ong said.
XBB, a sub-variant of the Omicron strain, was responsible for a surge in Covid-19 cases here in October, which subsided by early November.
As at noon on Sunday, the seven-day moving average of new local cases stood at 1,031.
There were 101 Covid-19 patients in the hospital, of whom 11 required oxygen supplementation while six were in intensive care.
However, questions remain over the arrival of winter in the Northern Hemisphere when diseases, including Covid-19, tend to spread, as well as China’s recent announcement of the easing of its pandemic restrictions.
Singapore’s resilience against the coronavirus is high, Mr Ong said, noting that the country has been through three waves of Covid-19, driven by various Omicron sub-variants, this year alone.
But there are “bound to be mutations” should the coronavirus spread among China’s mostly uninfected population, he said.
Mr Ong was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a visit to the mobile vaccination team at Hong Kah North Community Club.
Monday marked the redeployment of such mobile vaccination teams to heartland areas, to make it more convenient for seniors to get their vaccines.
MOH had earlier said these teams will be deployed to eight locations – including community centres and clubs in Choa Chu Kang, Kampong Chai Chee and Toa Payoh Central – between Monday and Jan 12. These teams will be deployed at each site for three days before moving on to the next location. The schedule is available at https://gowhere.gov.sg
With things almost back to normal, many people may feel no rush to get another shot of the vaccine, said Mr Ong. Efforts such as the mobile vaccination teams help bring the vaccinations closer to residents. “It’s very convenient. On the way to the coffee shop or the market, you can just drop by and get your jab,” he added.
Mr Tan Kok Ping, operations director for PanCare Medical Clinic, which runs the site at Hong Kah North Community Club, said it can vaccinate between 80 and 150 people a day.
Among those getting their jabs on Monday morning was Bukit Batok resident Napsiah Ali Mohd, 53, who got a shot of the Moderna bivalent vaccine.
The food and beverage supervisor, whose entire family caught Covid-19 in May, said she went to get her second booster as she wanted to get protection against re-infection. This is especially since she plans to travel in the coming year, she said.
Around 65 per cent of Singapore’s eligible population are up to date with their Covid-19 vaccinations as at Dec 10.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that about 70 deaths per 10,000 infections occur among those aged 70 and above who are not up to date with their vaccinations. The Ministry of Health has clarified that the figure refers to those aged 70 and above without minimum protection. Separately, we had mistakenly said that PanCare Medical Clinic can vaccinate up to 250 people a day. The figure has been corrected. We are sorry for the error.