SINGAPORE - Singapore kicked off its national Covid-19 vaccine booster programme on Wednesday (Sept 15) with about 3,200 seniors receiving the jabs.
More than 12,000 seniors have booked an appointment for their booster shots, said Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung in a Facebook post on Wednesday night.
Said Mr Ong: “This is an encouraging start and we hope more seniors can take their booster shot. The shot will better protect you for many more months, or even longer.”
Over the next few days, 140,000 seniors will receive invitations from the Ministry of Health (MOH) to make an appointment to receive a booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.
Seniors can also receive their third dose at Tanjong Pagar Community Club and some vaccination centres, polyclinics and participating Public Health Preparedness Clinics.
Former NTUC Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian was among the first in line at Teck Ghee Community Club, home to a vaccination centre run by Raffles Medical Group.
By noon, more than 100 seniors had taken their third shot at the centre.
"I'm in favour of vaccinations. If you're unvaccinated, you're five to eight times more likely to suffer serious illness," said Mr Tan, who went after his morning exercise.
"People are getting quite frightened as the number of cases rises," said the 73-year-old who took the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Retired clerk Ronnie Lee, 79, also took his booster shot on Wednesday morning as he was concerned about the rise in Covid-19 cases in the community.
"I read in the papers that unvaccinated senior citizens face more problems. It's for your own good to get the vaccine," he said.
Mr Lee, who experienced mild soreness in his arm after the first jab, added that he would go for more booster shots in the future.
"I believe it's the same as flu. I get the flu jab every year," he said.
Raffles Medical Group, which runs 14 vaccination centres, told The Straits Times that more than 200 seniors will be receiving their booster shots at Tanjong Pagar CC on Wednesday.
The Straits Times understands that some seniors managed to walk in to Teck Ghee CC and some vaccination centres on Tuesday to get their booster shots, without a prior appointment.
Over at Tanjong Pagar, more than 200 seniors had received their booster shots by Wednesday, Raffles Medical Group, which runs 14 vaccination centres, told ST.
Encouraging seniors to go for their jabs, Raffles Medical added that its vaccination centres in Teck Ghee and Tanjong Pagar are built to be senior-friendly.
The healthcare provider said: "These include wheelchair access, vaccination booths, waiting area chairs with arm supports."
On Wednesday, Mr James Ng, 67, who received a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at Tanjong Pagar CC, said he did so after having seen Israel successfully roll out its booster programme.
The semi-retired tour guide said: "I did not have any side effects after both doses, but my wife had a fever, so I was worried at first. But when I saw how Israel did not report any booster dose-related incidents, I felt calmer."
He added: "I don’t know if we’ll have to take a fourth booster shot like what Israel is planning. This virus mutates, so we really have to adapt accordingly."
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, 62, posted a photograph of himself receiving a booster dose, adding that the doses will help reduce the transmission of Covid-19 and protect individuals.
On Tuesday, 755 new cases were reported in the community, the highest in more than a year. Among these cases were 231 seniors aged 60 and above.
The Ren Ci nursing home in Bukit Batok, with 29 cases as at Tuesday, and All Saints Home in Jurong East, with 11 cases, have emerged as Covid-19 clusters.
On Wednesday, 30 residents of NTUC Health Nursing Home in Geylang East received their Covid-19 vaccine booster shots via a mobile vaccination team.
On Wednesday, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) urged seniors to stay home as much as possible and to get their Covid-19 vaccine booster shots if eligible.
In his Facebook post, Mr Ong said that the Government will work with the People's Association and AIC's outreach arm, the Silver Generation Office, to encourage seniors to take booster doses.
The Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination had recommended that people aged 60 and above should receive their booster shots six to nine months after the initial two doses.
Seniors can choose between the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine for their booster shot, but they will have to make an appointment at the site offering their preferred vaccine, said a Raffles Medical spokesman.
"Mixing of the two mRNA brands between the primary vaccination course of two doses and the booster is allowed."
Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said in Parliament on Tuesday that Singapore is in talks to obtain non-mRNA vaccines for its national Covid-19 vaccination programme, and could use these in a booster shot roll-out.