October 30, 2023
SINGAPORE – Eligible Singapore residents aged six months and older are encouraged to get an extra Covid-19 shot this year or the next, after a new batch of updated Covid-19 monovalent vaccines is rolled out from Monday.
The Ministry of Health (MOH), in a statement on Saturday, said the acceptance of the latest updated recommendations of the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination meant that people should get an extra shot of the vaccine in 2023 or 2024 – about a year and no earlier than five months after the last jab.
The updated Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty and Moderna/Spikevax Covid-19 vaccines can provide a stronger immune response against current and emerging strains compared with older versions of the vaccines, and can give better protection against Covid-19, it added.
These updated vaccines will be free under the National Vaccination Programme for all Singaporean citizens, permanent residents, long-term pass holders and certain short-term pass holders.
They are also expected to be as safe as the previous versions.
By Nov 20, the updated vaccines will take the place of all other types of Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty and Moderna/Spikevax vaccines being administered, said MOH.
The roll-out of the updated monovalent vaccines – depending on the expected arrival of the shipments – will be on these dates:
- Oct 30 – Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty for all individuals aged five years and above
- Nov 14 – Moderna/Spikevax for all individuals aged six months and above
- Nov 20 – Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty for children aged six months to four years
People can get their vaccinations at any Joint Testing and Vaccination Centre (JTVC), Public Health Preparedness Clinic (PHPC) or polyclinic offering the vaccine.
The MOH statement said the additional shot is recommended for those at greatest risk of severe disease, including people aged 60 years and above, medically vulnerable individuals and residents of aged care facilities.
It said: “Beyond this group, the expert committee encourages all individuals aged six months and above to also receive the additional dose for 2023/2024, particularly for healthcare workers and household members/caregivers of medically vulnerable individuals.”
The expert committee, in its recommendations, said: “While Covid-19 is generally mild in healthy individuals who have been vaccinated previously, an additional dose further enhances protection against severe disease in the medically vulnerable and elderly, and has comparable safety as previous doses.”
Virologists The Straits Times spoke to said the Covid-19 virus has mutated so much that its variants appear to be entirely different from the original.
Circulating among communities now are the mutated versions of the Omicron variant, including EG.5, XBB.1.5 and XBB.1.6.
XBB.1.5 was the dominant strain globally earlier in 2023, which is why regulators, including the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), picked it to be the target for the latest vaccines.
Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam said: “We haven’t seen the Alphas, the Betas and the Deltas for over a year. They are expected to have died out, so using a bivalent vaccine will distract the immune system by having it respond to a variant that is unlikely to recur or make a comeback.”
There was a 15.8 per cent rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in Singapore between the periods of Oct 10 to Oct 16 and Oct 17 to Oct 22, from 14,801 to 17,123.
These were driven mostly by EG.5 and its sub-variant HK.3, both of which are descended from the XBB Omicron variant. Together, they account for more than 75 per cent of cases recorded now.
From Nov 4 to Dec 2, the operating hours of all JTVCs will be extended on Saturdays, from 9am to 7pm – instead of the usual opening hours from 9am to 1pm – in case there is higher demand for the updated vaccines.
A longer waiting period should be expected on Fridays and Saturdays, said MOH.
More information on the operating hours of JTVCs is available at https://www.vaccine.gov.sg/locations/jtvc/ or by contacting the PHPCs.
MOH said: “Vaccination remains our primary defence against Covid-19, and continues to be safe and effective.”
Earlier this month, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said protection against severe forms of Covid-19 – whether through vaccination or from contracting the disease – wanes close to the 12-month mark, and those most at risk must take the shots yearly to avoid getting severely ill.
Speaking at the opening of the Stepping Stones Rehabilitation Centre and addiction medicine ward Serenity Centre at the Institute of Mental Health on Oct 6, he said there are no plans to impose social restrictions, but the virus that causes Covid-19 has not become milder since the pandemic.
The latest Health Sciences Authority data found that reporting rates of adverse events and serious adverse events for the mRNA vaccines – both monovalent and bivalent versions – remained rare at 0.10 per cent and 0.007 per cent, respectively, said MOH.
It added that the incidence of myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle – has remained rare, with reporting rates of one per 100,000 doses (0.001 per cent) for the monovalent vaccines and 0.4 per 100,000 doses (0.0004 per cent) for the bivalent vaccines.
“Protection from vaccination will wane over time. We therefore encourage all individuals to keep up to date with their vaccination once eligible,” said MOH.
The nearest vaccination site and the types of vaccines offered at each site are listed at https://www.gowhere.gov.sg/vaccine
Those who prefer to book an appointment for their vaccination can either call the clinic directly or do so at https://book.health.gov.sg/covid