COVID booster shots may be needed every year: Ong Ye Kung

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·Assistant News Editor
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  • Ong Ye Kung
    Singaporean politician
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung addresses Parliament on Monday, 12 January 2022 (SCREENGRAB: Gov.sg YouTube channel)
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung addresses Parliament on 10 January 2022 (SCREENGRAB: Gov.sg YouTube channel)

SINGAPORE — Just as individuals take a yearly flu shot, Singaporeans may also need to take a yearly booster shot as Singapore continues to transit into the endemic phase of the pandemic, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung in Parliament on Monday (10 January).

Responding to a query from Tampines Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui on whether more vaccination doses are needed after the booster jab, Ong said that it was "too early to tell". He noted that Israel is currently the only country that has authorised a fourth dose for non-immunocompromised individuals.

Ong pointed to an "endemic, infectious disease" like influenza, which mutates frequently. "So people receive vaccinations every year to protect themselves against it without many problems, or the need for disruptive border closures and social restrictions each time there’s an influenza infection wave.

"It is a possible future scenario when we live with COVID-19 as an endemic disease."

The minister added that the Ministry of Health and the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination (EC19V) will continue to monitor local and international data on the durability of protection from vaccine boosters and the evolution of the virus to assess the need for further vaccinations.

Separately, Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary told the House that 15,540 children aged below 12 were infected with COVID last year. A total of 3,145 were sent to hospital or a COVID-19 facility but have all been discharged. 

Since mid-October last year, Singapore has seen several serious cases in children, with some requiring intensive care. "Although fewer children have been seriously ill with COVID-19 compared with adults, there is still a risk of them becoming seriously ill or developing severe COVID-19 complications such as multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)," said Dr Puthucheary.

Health authorities are also reviewing if the Sinovac-Coronavac vaccine can be extended to children aged five to 11, who are medically ineligible to take the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine.

The review will be based on further studies on the safety and effectiveness of the Sinovac vaccine.

At present, only the Pfizer vaccine is authorised for use in children below 18 years. Special exemptions are made for those aged 12 to 17 who are not medically eligible for it to receive a Sinovac-Coronavac vaccine under a dedicated public health program.

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