SINGAPORE - Each day, about 60 unvaccinated seniors are getting infected from Covid-19, with six of them likely to need intensive care, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary told Parliament on Monday (Nov 1).
He described how Covid-19 continues to affect the unvaccinated disproportionately, especially the elderly.
Furthermore, the unvaccinated are more at risk of getting reinfected. Up till mid-August, there were 32 reinfection cases and all of them were unvaccinated, he said in a ministerial statement, where he gave an update on the capacity of hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) here.
Unvaccinated seniors who have underlying medical conditions are at much greater risk of severe illness and death, he said.
Close to 95 per cent of those who died in the last six months were those aged 60 and above, and 72 per cent of all deceased cases had not been fully vaccinated. Almost all of the remaining 28 per cent who were fully vaccinated had underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and heart, lung or kidney diseases.
As of Sunday, 407 people have died from Covid-19 here.
"Underlying conditions add risks, even if the conditions are well-controlled before the patient encounters Covid-19, especially if the patient is elderly," said Dr Janil.
"The risks of being unvaccinated are high. Compared to the vaccinated, someone who is 60 years old and above and unvaccinated is six times more likely to need oxygen, eight times more likely to become critically ill and need the ICU, and 17 times more likely to die."
He said the booster dose has helped to reduce severe illness among the vaccinated elderly, but the unvaccinated continue to be at risk.
Those unvaccinated are also at higher risk of long-term effects of the disease.
Dr Janil cited a study from Britain that found that those who are vaccinated are half as likely to continue having symptoms about a month after Covid-19 infection than those who are not vaccinated.
Although there is no conclusive information yet about the long-term health consequences of Covid-19, a study by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases found that one in 10 infected patients who recovered continued to show symptoms such as coughing or breathlessness six months later, he added.
As at last week, 68,000 seniors remain unvaccinated.
Following the ministerial statement, Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang) asked if there would be initiatives to identify and isolate unvaccinated seniors since they are more susceptible to severe illness, and consider loosening safe management measures for the rest of the population.
In response, Mr Janil said the unvaccinated elderly cannot be locked up and isolated completely, and that the vaccine-differentiated measures exist to limit their risks of infection.
"You need fresh air, food, contact with other people... we don't think we can go much further than where we are today (in) vaccine-differentiated measures," he said.
He added: "Our grandparents want to see their grandkids, we want to go and look after our parents. And each of those interactions poses a very small but measurable risk... we have to assume that whatever it is we do, we're doing, we must treat the whole population as one."