SINGAPORE - Those who are eligible to receive their Covid-19 booster shots can now get them five months after completing their primary two-dose regime from Wednesday (Nov 24), said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.
This would mean that half the population would likely have received their booster shot by the end of the year.
Mr Ong, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, on Saturday (Nov 20) said the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination now recommends that the interval rate for receiving boosters be standardised to five months for all age groups.
Previously, the recommendation was that boosters be administered six months after the second dose for those aged 30 to 59, and five months after the second dose for those aged 60 and above, he said during a press conference by the task force.
"So with this change, from now to end-December, we hope to administer about 1.5 million boosters," he added.
"In addition, raising our coverage from 21 per cent of our population to about 50 per cent... means by year end, half of our population will be freshly boosted with high levels of antibodies."
He stressed that the third dose is now a must, due to the dominant Delta variant of the virus.
"At some point, we will need everyone who has two doses of vaccine to get a third one, as with the Delta variant, there is now an emerging view among clinical and scientific communities that (the Covid-19 vaccine) is a three-dose vaccine, just like for hepatitis B."
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Saturday that the waning of antibodies occurs around six months after the second dose and earlier for those who are older.
"The committee now recommends that we standardise the interval rate to five months for all age groups eligible for boosters, as this would be an appropriate interval to pre-empt waning of antibodies for all," it added.
Invitations via SMS to take these shots will be sent out to this group of people before their five-month interval.
People currently eligible for vaccine booster shots include those aged 30 and above, and front-line workers who are at risk of Covid-19 infection.
"For those who are eligible based on the criteria to date, but have not received their SMS invitations, they are also invited to walk in to any Moderna vaccination centre to receive their booster vaccination without a need to book an appointment," said the ministry.
Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said the task force will continue to study the benefits of rolling out booster jabs to those below the age of 30.
He noted that in this age group, there has been a "slightly increased risk" of myocarditis, or heart inflammation, among those who got the primary two-dose regime. However, emerging data from booster jabs has shown that there is no increased risk of myocarditis so far.
Adjustments have been made to the booster doses to ensure that there is a similar efficacy to the primary two-dose regime, but with a slightly lower risk of side effects, he added.
Associate Professor Mak said he hopes for further data to confirm this, and that the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination is studying whether booster doses can be extended those aged above 18.
While MOH is looking at extending booster doses to even younger age groups, Prof Mak said it is "too soon to tell" whether these individuals will require three doses as opposed to two.