555 of the 802 who died of Covid-19 in 2021 were not fully vaccinated: Ong Ye Kung

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SINGAPORE - A total of 555 of the 802 who died of Covid-19 in 2021 were not fully vaccinated, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday (Jan 10), stressing that this group of people are still "the most prone" to falling seriously ill when infected.

Although the unvaccinated account for a small proportion of the population, they contributed to 70 per cent of the deaths, he told Parliament.

Mr Ong said the remaining 247 were vaccinated with a range of locally available vaccines.

The incidence rate of deaths varied based on their vaccination status. There were 79 deaths per 100,000 for those who were not fully vaccinated, 11 deaths per 100,000 for those inoculated with Sinovac and 7.8 per 100,000 for those who had the Sinopharm vaccine.

As for those who received the mRNA vaccines, the figure was 6.2 per 100,000 for Pfizer-BioNTech and one per 100,000 for Moderna.

"These rates are only indicative since they do not account for other factors which can affect mortality, such as the age and timing of vaccination," he added.

Responding to questions from MPs, he said that around 132,000 individuals aged 18 years and above remain unvaccinated. About 300 people are medically ineligible.

"We will continue to try to convince those who are medically eligible to get vaccinated, through their primary care physicians, public messaging and the media. But as the number gets smaller, it is also harder to convince them," Mr Ong noted.

He added that mobile vaccination teams can also visit those who are housebound to vaccinate them.

Over the past months, more than 90 per cent of every eligible age group have been vaccinated, he said. Among seniors aged 60 to 69, 96 per cent have been fully vaccinated, while for those 70 and above, it is 95 per cent.

For those aged between 12 and 19 years, 95 per cent of them are fully vaccinated, he noted.

Although vaccination has just begun among those aged five to 11, the response has been good and the operations have been smooth, he added.

"We will continue to closely monitor the availability of other non-mRNA vaccines that are approved for use in children," said Mr Ong.

Giving an update on the number of people who have received their Covid-19 vaccine boosters, Mr Ong said about 46 per cent of the population have gotten such jabs.

An additional 900,000 people are now eligible for boosters after these were extended to those aged 18 to 29. Of those, 700,000 can get their boosters today, he added.

The Ministry of Health has also set a 270-day validity period for one's full vaccination status as a "strong signal" to the population to get the boosters promptly.

Mr Ong had said at a press conference last week that the policy change will kick in on Feb 14, such that those who received the last dose of their primary vaccination series more than 270 days ago will no longer be considered fully vaccinated.

It is too early to tell whether there is a need for further booster shots, he said, noting that only Israel has authorised a fourth dose for non-immunocompromised individuals thus far.

Mr Ong cited how influenza viruses mutate frequently, and people thus get yearly vaccinations to protect themselves against the endemic infectious disease.

This happens without many problems "or the need for disruptive border closures and social restrictions each time there is an infection wave", he said. "It is a possible future scenario when we live with Covid-19."

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