Two-thirds of Singapore population to be fully vaccinated by National Day, as govt speeds up inoculation programme

People walking to the observation station after getting their Covid-19 vaccine at Yew Tee Community Centre on April 21, 2021. — TODAY pic
People walking to the observation station after getting their Covid-19 vaccine at Yew Tee Community Centre on April 21, 2021. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, June 24 — Half of Singapore’s population will be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 “shortly” and two-thirds are expected to have received both doses of the vaccine by National Day on August 9, as the authorities speed up the national inoculation programme.

The task force leading Singapore’s pandemic response had previously aimed to fully vaccinate 50 per cent of the population by August.

Currently, 36 per cent of the population — or around two million people — has received both doses.

Gan Kim Yong, co-chair of the task force, said during a press conference today that this will mean more people will be protected from serious illness, though he added that two-thirds vaccination coverage is “still not enough”.

“We need to continue to press on with vaccination to achieve an even higher rate of coverage. Then we will be able to resume the higher-risk activities, which we have suspended over the last 1.5 years, maybe with some capacity limits imposed,” Gan, who is also Minister for Trade and Industry, said.

Giving an update on the vaccination programme, fellow co-chair and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that the national vaccination programme can be speeded up as the authorities have been able to bring forward the delivery of vaccine supplies.

Singapore was administering about 40,000 doses a day in May and will be raising this to 47,000 doses a day this month.

“We will now run this up to 80,000 doses every day in the coming weeks, starting this weekend (on June 26),” Ong said.

Vaccination centres across Singapore will be able to add another 500,000 new first-dose appointments over the next few days until mid-July, with more slots available in the subsequent weeks.

The Ministry of Health will also be extending the priority window for those aged 12 to 39 to make vaccination appointments for one week to July 1. Previously, this group was given priority booking from June 10 to 24.

This will allow more time for individuals to register and receive an earlier vaccination appointment from the extra slots announced by Ong today, MOH said in a statement.

From July 2, the Government will also be extending the national vaccination programme to the rest of the population, including all Singapore permanent residents and long-term pass holders residing here aged 12 to 39 years.

This group will be progressively invited to book their vaccination appointments from that date through phone text message, with a personalised booking link sent to their registered mobile numbers.

MOH said that if supplies continue to arrive as planned, Singapore will be able to “substantially cover” most of the population with a first dose by July.

Shortening interval between doses

With this sped-up vaccination programme, the Government will also review shortening the interval between doses, which is now up to eight weeks, back to the original interval of four weeks.

MOH said: “This will allow more of our population to complete their vaccination with two doses and receive maximum protection sooner.”

Explaining this move, Ong stressed the need to protect as many people as possible and that it “will not make sense” to have people continue to wait between six and eight weeks until August, or beyond, for their second doses.

This will depend on whether supplies continue to arrive as scheduled, he added.

More details will be announced when ready, he said.

Novavax vaccine

At the press conference, Ong revealed that Singapore had inked an advanced purchase agreement with biotechnology firm Novavax in January, with promising results from the clinical trials published so far.

The Novavax vaccine, which is developed in the United States, uses a “subunit vaccine approach” and is not based on the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology being used in the two other approved vaccines in Singapore, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Ong said: “The shipment will not be ready so soon, because the vaccine is still undergoing phase-three clinical trials. We are working closely with Novavax and awaiting our application for regulatory approval, but we hope the vaccine supplies can arrive before the end of the year for those who want to take something that is non-mRNA.”

In the meantime, Ong urged people to consider mRNA vaccines as they have worked well.

“Please consider them, unless you are medically not eligible to take them, such as you are allergic to the first dose,” he said.

More details will be announced soon, he added. — TODAY

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