Vaccination still key to reducing excess deaths resulting from Covid-19

Vaccination significantly reduces the risk of infections turning into severe illness and death. ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

SINGAPORE - Vaccination remains a major part of reducing excess deaths associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, as it significantly reduces the risk of infections turning into severe illness and death, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung in Parliament on Monday.

He cited Singapore's high vaccination rates as a key reason for the nation's low number of excess deaths – referring to the increased death rate from all causes since the pandemic began, compared with the expected rate without Covid-19.

In September, the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported that there were 2,490 excess deaths in Singapore between January 2020 and June 2022.

Of these, 1,140 occurred between January 2020 and December 2021, while 1,350 excess deaths were recorded from January to June 2022, Mr Ong said in response to questions from Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) and Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang).

The unvaccinated disproportionately contributed to Covid-19 deaths, he said, noting that for the first half of 2022, while only 5 per cent of the eligible population were not fully vaccinated, they made up 28 per cent of the deaths.

While MOH does not "comprehensively track" the number of people medically ineligible to get vaccinated, Mr Ong said that as at end-June, about 2,100 people had been granted exemptions from vaccination-differentiated safe management measures due to adverse reactions to Covid-19 vaccines.

The observed rate of Covid-19 deaths for this group was around two in 1,000, compared with 0.3 in 1,000 for the whole population, he added.

Mr Ong said that pandemic restrictions helped slow down the rate of infection and prevented the healthcare system from being overwhelmed such that hospitals were unable to take care of Covid-19 patients.

This would have affected those with other conditions such as heart attack or stroke, with many likely to die without proper care, he said.

While he did not rule out reimposing such restrictions in the event of a surge in severe Covid-19 cases, this will be done only if necessary to save lives and protect the healthcare system, said Mr Ong.

He added that in future, Covid-19 vaccinations will be similar to flu jabs, taken seasonally, and that more details will be announced regarding this new mode of vaccinating the population.

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