S'pore's expert committee on Covid-19 vaccines discussing need for booster jabs

An announcement will be given in due course once the committee has firmed up its policy on booster shots. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccines is discussing whether there is a requirement for Covid-19 booster shots to be given to specific groups such as seniors, vulnerable people and those in healthcare setting, or to the general population.

An announcement will be given in due course once the committee has firmed up its policy on booster shots, said Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak on Friday (Aug 6).

He was responding to a question raised by The Straits Times on whether the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 will consider giving booster shots to people with co-morbidities, or those suffering from two or more diseases, after a number of them had fallen seriously ill despite being vaccinated.

ST also asked if the task force will consider testing the antibody levels of healthcare workers who were vaccinated at least six months ago and give them a third dose as a booster shot if their neutralising antibodies had fallen below a certain level.

Covid-19 neutralising antibodies are able to prevent the Sars-Cov-2 virus from infecting a person's cells.

Associate Professor Mak said that the data from current antibody tests, also known as serology tests, is unable to be correlated accurately with the degree of immune protection that vaccines are able to provide.

"The immune protection is accorded by both the production of antibodies as well as the cellular reactions and responses that occur secondary to vaccination. The antibody test only tests one component of this," he said.

He added that the expert committee is studying this matter and to determine whether there is a need for any further tests to determine whether an individual is at particular risk of having his immune protection wane after a period of time.

"But at this time, the evidence doesn't point strongly towards doing this on a routine and regular basis. So we await further data and further recommendations coming out from our expert committee before we put in place any plans to introduce booster vaccinations to sub-populations in our community," said Prof Mak.

He stressed that the emphasis still remains on getting as high a vaccination coverage as possible with the current regime, with the focus on encouraging people to get vaccinated.

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