SINGAPORE — Singapore's expert committee on COVID-19 vaccinations is currently reviewing and developing recommendations on booster shots, said the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce on Thursday (19 August).
Additionally, the vaccination of children below the age of 12 is expected to start early next year after authorities have properly studied the safety and efficacy aspects.
"We will very likely have to start a booster exercise," said Minister of Health Ong Ye Kung at the virtual taskforce press conference.
"Israel has started administering boosters to their seniors and vulnerable persons. Britain, Germany, and France have announced that they will start in September. The United States' CDC (Center for Disease Control) has just recommended booster shots, after eight months from the second dose."
One of two key things to find out from countries that have started their booster programmes is the incidence of adverse reactions from the third shot, compared to the previous two jabs, and the necessary steps to mitigate or remove the risk if it is higher.
The other, Ong said, is to decide whether to apply the same or a different vaccine from the first two shots.
"There is scientific basis to suggest that a heterologous strategy may confer stronger protection. The UK is implementing such a strategy, and we will be monitoring the outcome closely," he added.
But one thing which the expert committee is clear on and will recommend is to administer a third shot for patients who are severely immune-compromised at the time of their first two doses, Ong stressed.
They include those who are on cancer treatment or immunosuppressive therapy as well as transplant and end-stage kidney disease patients on dialysis.
"Because of their conditions, these persons react much less to vaccination, even after two doses. Meaning they can’t produce as much antibodies or activate the necessary mechanisms to fight the virus. Hence, a third dose of vaccine is necessary for them," said Ong, who added that the expert committee will be putting out their recommendations on this group "shortly".
Vaccination sticker for travellers to be eligible for SMMs
Meanwhile, from 11.59pm on Friday, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will issue a tamper-proof vaccination sticker to be affixed onto the passport of newly-arrived travellers who were fully vaccinated overseas with a WHO-Emergency Use Listing (EUL) vaccine, and who can furnish a valid, English-language vaccination certificate.
These travellers will be eligible for vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (SMMs) if they produce their passport with the valid tamper-proof sticker affixed.
Currently, only Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders with vaccination records in Singapore’s National Immunisation Registry are eligible for vaccination-differentiated SMMs. All other incoming travellers would have to obtain a negative pre-event test by a MOH-approved test provider in order to be eligible for these measures.
By September, the systems will be enhanced so that travellers, upon verification of their eligible vaccination status at entry, will also be recognised by SE Biz app through their TraceTogether apps/tokens to be eligible for vaccination-differentiated safe management measures without needing to go through PET.
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