SINGAPORE, Feb 20 — Seniors aged 60 to 69 will be vaccinated from around the end of March with the general population of Singaporeans to follow after that, “probably sometime in April or thereafter,” Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday.
Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the national Covid-19 task force with Gan, said it is expected that the first dose of vaccines will be distributed to another one million persons by around the end of March or early April.
“If all goes according to plan, then we can progressively roll out to the other age groups beyond March. We will continue to monitor the supply of vaccines because that's the critical issue that will enable us to get vaccines out,” Wong said.
“We are also continuing to look out for other vaccine options and we will do everything we can to achieve our goal of getting the vaccines into Singapore and vaccinating everyone in Singapore by the end of the year,” he added.
The two ministers were speaking at a doorstop interview at a vaccination centre in Jalan Besar Community Club yesterday.
With the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination for seniors to start next Monday, personalised letters will be sent to those aged 70 years and above over the next three weeks inviting them to sign up for the voluntary vaccinations.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) said in a press statement yesterday: “We will start by inviting seniors living near polyclinics or vaccination centres, so that they can be conveniently vaccinated at a vaccination site near their home. It also said that seniors are at higher risk of severe disease or complications from Covid-19 and have been prioritised for vaccination.
“We expect all the letters to reach our seniors aged 70 years and above by the first week of March.”
By mid-March, all seniors aged 70 and older will be able to receive the Covid-19 vaccination when a vaccination centre opens in each housing town, it added.
The exercise will move to those between 60 and 69 years old thereafter. This group will receive their invitation letters around the middle of March, and the vaccination will begin from around end-March onwards.
MoH said that seniors are encouraged to update their residential address using the change of address e-service via the relevant government websites, so that letters will be delivered to their place of residence.
Upon receiving the invitation letter, they may register online at vaccine.gov.sg.
Once registered, they will receive an SMS with a unique link for them to book their appointments.
They will then be able to get their injection at any of the vaccination centres, 20 polyclinics, or 22 Public Health Preparedness Clinics operating as vaccination sites.
Seniors who need help booking their vaccination appointments may take their invitation letter to any community centre or club from February 19, where staff members there will assist them.
MoH said that community volunteers from the People’s Association and Silver Generation Ambassadors will be conducting house visits and tapping grassroots events to help seniors with their appointment booking and answer their queries.
“To reach out to seniors who may find it challenging to visit a vaccination site in person due to mobility issues, we will work with the relevant agencies to deploy mobile vaccination teams to carry out vaccinations for these individuals,” MoH said.
A pilot for vaccinations for seniors aged 70 years and above started on January 27 for those living in Ang Mo Kio and Tanjong Pagar. More than 5,000 seniors from both towns have received their vaccinations as of February 18.
As of February 18, a total of about 250,000 individuals have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. More than 110,000 have received their second dose of the vaccine and completed the full vaccination regimen.
To ensure that seniors can conveniently receive their vaccinations, MoH said that more vaccination centres will be set up in the coming weeks, with at least one vaccination centre in each town by end-March.
There are 11 vaccination centres in operation, with three more vaccination centres located at community centres and clubs starting operations by February 22 at Bukit Timah, Marine Parade and Taman Jurong.
In total, there will eventually be around 40 vaccination centres, with each planned for an estimated capacity of 2,000 vaccinations a day.
“These centres, together with the polyclinics and selected Public Health Preparedness Clinics, will ensure that every Singaporean and long-term resident in Singapore who is medically eligible can receive their vaccinations conveniently,” MoH said.
When asked about the case of the 72-year-old man who suffered a cardiac arrest on February 16 after getting his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Gan reiterated an earlier statement by MoH that based on an initial assessment, there is no indication that the cardiac arrest was due to the Covid-19 vaccination.
“I want to assure Singaporeans that we do take this very seriously. Whether related to vaccination or not, we want to know if there are any such incidents so we can investigate and better understand the situation,” he said.
“Our criteria and our process will continue to be refined to be safe for those who want to be vaccinated.”
Gan added that everyone being vaccinated has to to go through “quite a thorough” questionnaire.
After the vaccination, they will continue to be observed for 30 minutes. Then, they have to complete another questionnaire to ensure that they are all well and are given advice should they have any reaction.
Gan said that it was important to monitor those who have been vaccinated so that the authorities can keep track of any adverse effects and use that information to “refine our criteria for vaccination”.
The government is monitoring data not just locally but internationally to ensure that there is a continuous process of refining the criteria and that the roll-out of the vaccine is safe, he said. ― TODAY