'Absolutely wrong' to refuse vaccination because of Omicron variant: Ong Ye Kung

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COVID-19 vaccination at the Mount Elizabeth hospital vaccine centre in Singapore.
COVID-19 vaccination at the Mount Elizabeth hospital vaccine centre in Singapore. (PHOTO: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Despite the uncertainties on the effectiveness of current COVID-19 vaccines on the new Omicron variant, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that this is "absolutely the wrong time" to argue against vaccination.

With the World Health Organisation (WHO) saying the this latest COVID-19 variant has undergone heavy mutations, scientists are racing to find out whether current coronavirus vaccines are effective in protecting against Omicron.

While the scientists are still gathering and analysing information on the new variant, Ong has warned the public against deciding not to take the currently available vaccines, and wait for new ones to arrive in Singapore.

"When we are faced with the unknown, we buy insurance. The insurance now is the existing vaccines," he said during a multi-ministry taskforce (MTF) media conference on Tuesday (30 November).

"It is not the case where existing vaccines do not work, because the human body is much more capable than that, once vaccinated. There is a good chance that existing vaccines will work against Omicron."

He said that very early data from doctors in South Africa – where the Omicron variant was first discovered – showed that, among patients with severe symptoms, 65 per cent are unvaccinated and the remaining 35 per cent are partially vaccinated. This suggests that existing vaccines could still be effective.

Ong also mentioned during the media conference that his ministry is making good progress in preparing for paediatric vaccination for those aged between five and 11 years old, and details will be announced when ready.

No Omicron-linked deaths had yet been reported since the variant was first detected in South Africa on 9 November, but WHO said that further research was needed to assess its potential to resist vaccines and immunity induced by previous infections. US President Joe Biden had said that the new variant "is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic".

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