No plans to include Covid-19 jabs in national childhood immunisation schedule for now: Ong Ye Kung

MOH will review vaccination recommendations when appropriate, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - About 5.7 per 100,000 young people under the age of 18 who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 came down with a rare and severe inflammatory syndrome after getting infected with the coronavirus.

This is compared with an incidence of 38 per 100,000 among young people under 18 who got Covid-19 and were not fully vaccinated, as of Aug 29.

The multi-system inflammatory syndrome is a condition where a child's immune system overreacts after a Covid-19 infection, typically two to eight weeks later.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung shared these figures on Tuesday, in his reply to Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang).

Asked whether Covid-19 vaccination will be included in the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule, Mr Ong told the House there are no plans to do so at this point.

He noted that the pandemic situation is dynamic and recommendations continue to evolve with new data.

"MOH will review this when appropriate," Mr Ong added.

Mr Yip also sought an update on the Novavax vaccine for those under 18, to which Mr Ong said the Health Sciences Authority and Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination are evaluating the vaccine for young people aged 12 to 17.

Novavax has not applied for its vaccine to be administered to children under 12, Mr Ong added.

In February, HSA granted interim authorisation for Novavax's vaccine to be used here for those aged 18 and above.

Mr Ong also said that bivalent vaccines, which target both the ancestral strain of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant, will be brought into Singapore.

Such vaccines are provided for in Singapore's agreements with the pharmaceutical companies, he said, adding more details will be shared when arrangements are confirmed.

In the meantime, existing vaccines remain highly protective against severe disease, including for the Omicron BA.5 variant, Mr Ong stressed.

"So if you are eligible to receive another vaccine dose, please receive your vaccination without delay, and not wait for variant-specific vaccines, as Covid-19 is still spreading in the community," he said.

Responding to Workers' Party MP Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC), who asked about the removal of vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS), Mr Ong said these measures are implemented in anticipation of another infection wave, and are part of crisis management.

While VDS are required for specific settings such as events with more than 500 participants at any one time, business owners and employers also have the flexibility to impose conditions of service such as requiring the donning of masks, he said.

He added that as the Government reviews vaccination requirements, it will look at VDS at the same time. This review is expected to be completed in the next few months.

Associate Professor Lim also asked if the Government would consider removing VDS completely for the public sector, given that there are still individuals who choose not to be vaccinated for personal, health and religious reasons.

Mr Ong replied that it is difficult to set a blanket policy and fully remove the VDS, as it depends on the setting - such as whether there are seniors present or if a crowd is expected.

A differentiated approach is thus necessary, where measures are adopted to manage the risks of different settings, he said.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.