S'pore can't rely on herd immunity, will use Covid-19 vaccines among other measures: Gan Kim Yong

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the extent to which transmission can be prevented through vaccination still remains the subject of scientific studies.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the extent to which transmission can be prevented through vaccination still remains the subject of scientific studies.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Herd immunity is not something that Singapore can rely solely on to control the spread of Covid-19 infections, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at a press conference held by the multi ministry task force tackling the pandemic on Friday (May 14).

Vaccination, he explained, is but one tool in a suite of measures to fight the disease.

"We are continuing to encourage Singaporeans to get vaccinated... but important to bear in mind that we cannot rely on herd immunity.

"There will be some who cannot be vaccinated because of medical conditions. And while it protects against severe disease, it doesn't totally stop infection or transmission."

He added that though the ministry is encouraged by the progress made so far on vaccinations, it is more concerned about those aged 70 and older.

Mr Gan was responding to a question if there are plans, given the spike in community cases, to make vaccination mandatory in order to urgently achieve herd immunity.

"We must not think that once we vaccinate everyone, we are safe and can do away with (the Covid-19) precautions.

"Vaccinations should be seen as one in a plethora of tools we can use... measures such as safe distancing remain very important, and contact tracing and ring-fencing are part and parcel of this suite of tools we deploy to protect Singapore," he said.

The Health Ministry's chief health scientist, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, had last year noted that at least 80 per cent of Singapore's population would have to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19.

He said then that this "herd immunity" indirectly reduces the risk of infection for those who are not immune to it, thereby limiting infection clusters.

Mr Gan on Friday said that the extent to which transmission can be prevented through vaccination still remains the subject of scientific studies, though it seems to be able to reduce transmission and can help the authorities to control the outbreak.

However, vaccination as a strategy can help to restore the economy to normalcy as much as possible, though the situation has to be observed to see how it continues to evolve, said the health minister.

"We are also likely to see new variants and assess if boosters may be necessary.

"These are uncertainties we are confronted with and we will discover more as time goes on and we may need to adjust the strategy," he said.

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