SINGAPORE - People aged 50 to 59 can now take a second Covid-19 vaccine booster shot if they wish to, by walking into any vaccination centre offering mRNA vaccines.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (June 10) said Singapore’s Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination had recommended this in view of data showing that the risk of severe Covid-19 increases in this age group as well.
“This is also around the age when chronic diseases start to set in,” said the ministry.
Meanwhile, from July 1, medically vulnerable people with certain health conditions will no longer require a doctor's referral to receive a second booster shot and may do so after declaring their conditions at any vaccination centre or Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) and polyclinics that offer vaccination.
This group includes patients aged 18 and above with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, asthma, liver cirrhosis, stroke and cancer under active treatment, among others. The full list of conditions is available on the MOH website.
The list of vaccination centres still in operation can be found here.
The ministry announced these updates to Singapore's vaccination programme on Friday, along with changes to other Covid-19 control measures.
It said the private vaccination programme, which allowed short-term visitors to pay to receive Covid-19 vaccinations and boosters here, has now been extended to everyone aged 18 and above in Singapore.
Previously, local residents could not receive additional shots over and above the doses they were eligible for under the national vaccination programme, even if they were willing to pay for it.
Now, they can do so at their own expense based on a doctor’s assessment. Another change involves the recommended interval between the first two shots.
Currently, the minimum interval is 21 days for the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty and Novavax/Nuvaxovid vaccines and 28 days for the Moderna/Spikevax and Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccines.
MOH said recent international data has shown that a longer gap of eight weeks between the doses may provide better protection for individuals.
“We encourage individuals who are taking their primary series to book their first two doses eight weeks apart,” said the ministry.
“But those who need to complete their primary series sooner, particularly those who are at risk of exposure to Covid-19 or more susceptible to severe disease, may opt for a shorter interval between the two doses as long as it is not below the minimum interval."
Singapore’s vaccination rate stands at 95.9 per cent for eligible individuals who had completed their primary series. The figure for those who have taken at least one booster shot is 91.7 per cent.
As at Wednesday, 49.3 per cent of those aged 80 and above who are eligible for a second booster shot have either already received one or have booked an appointment to get it.
The subsidy policy for Covid-19 treatments will also be scaled back as Singapore continues to treat the virus as endemic.
From 12:01am on July 1, subsidies at PHPCs and polyclinics for the treatment of respiratory infections will revert to pre-pandemic levels.
This means the flat $5 to $10 fee for such infections will no longer apply, though Singaporeans may still get other subsidies under other schemes.
Telemedicine subsidies for those who are mildly symptomatic and recovering at home will also revert to pre-pandemic levels from 12:01am on July 1. This refers to people under MOH's Protocol 2 definition.
Those under Protocol 1, who are at high medical risk or have severe symptoms but were discharged to a home setting, will continue to receive fully subsidised telemedicine care.
Antigen rapid tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests will also continue to be provided at PHPCs and polyclinics to eligible individuals with symptoms at no charge.
Emergency department charges for vaccinated Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders with Covid-19 will also no longer be waived in all cases from 12:01am on July 1.
Currently, those who are fully vaccinated or medically ineligible for vaccination do not have to pay such charges.
This will no longer apply for those who are deemed not to require hospital admission or treatment at a dedicated facility.
But those who are assessed to require admission or treatment will continue to have their charges and inpatient bills fully subsidised.
MOH said it will continue to monitor for virus strains introduced into and circulating in the community by requiring some infected individuals to take an additional government-funded PCR swab test for genome sequencing.