SINGAPORE - The possibility of giving vaccine boosters to younger adults is being studied as Singapore embarks on an enhanced Covid-19 testing regime to dampen the increasing likelihood of an exponential increase in cases.
In an update on Monday (Sept 6), Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chairman of the multi-ministry task force handling the Covid-19 situation in Singapore, said the new testing regime will buy time for Singapore to roll out its vaccine booster programme for seniors.
On the possibility of boosters for younger adults as well, he said: "This will not only protect them but also help to slow down transmission and further reduce the R value." The R value measures the average number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to.
Mr Wong noted that the high vaccination coverage has allowed Singapore to keep the incidence of severe illnesses and deaths low among vaccinated individuals.
However, unvaccinated individuals remain susceptible, with cases doubling to more than 1,200 cases last week, up from 600 cases in the week before.
"Thus, we need to take quick action now to dampen the increasing likelihood of an exponential increase in cases," he said.
"This will also buy us time to get more people, in particular seniors, vaccinated as soon as possible, and also to roll out our booster programme to those aged 60 and above."
The measures are meant to help slow down transmission without having to go back to a state of heightened alert, or a circuit breaker, which are "last-resort measures", though they should not be ruled out entirely, added Mr Wong.
The number of unvaccinated seniors above 60 years old is around 94,000, with the numbers continuing to drop as around 500 seniors are getting their jabs each day, he said.
The booster programme is on track and will be rolled out according to the planned timeline, said Mr Wong.
Singapore will give its first Covid-19 vaccine booster shots - to seniors aged 60 and above, residents of aged-care facilities, and those whose immune systems are compromised - from this month.
The first batch of invites will be sent out to eligible seniors in two weeks' time, he added.
The Ministry of Health said seniors should receive a booster dose of mRNA vaccine six to nine months after completing their two-dose vaccination regimen.
"We will have more than enough vaccines to administer to those who are eligible," said Mr Wong, noting that the vaccine swop deal with Australia is "advantageous" for Singapore.
"Not everyone took their primary vaccines in February or March, it was a progressive schedule... so our booster demand will correspondingly rise in the next few months. And when that happens, we swop now and get back later, we will have enough vaccines when the demand for boosters goes up," he said.