COVID: Singapore vaccination extended to 12-15 age group, dosing interval now 6-8 weeks

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination drive is to be extended to those aged 12 to 15, who will be administered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while adults in the 40-44 age group can register for their shots from Wednesday (19 May), the multi-ministerial taskforce (MTF) on COVID-19 said on Tuesday.

As of Monday, a total of 3.4 million doses had been administered – 2 million have received at least one dose, while 1.4 million have had two doses, the MTF said at a virtual media briefing.

In addition, the vaccine dosing interval will now be between six and eight weeks, extended from the original three to four week period. This is applicable to vaccination registrations that occur from Wednesday. This vaccine strategy is similar to those being carried out in the UK and Germany.

With the new strategy, it is estimated that an additional 400,000 people will receive the first dose of the vaccine. Singapore's adult population is expected to be offered at least a first dose by early August, while the country remains on track for the entire population to be fully vaccinated by the end of the year.

Health Minister and MTF co-chair Ong Ye Kung said the end point of the revamped strategy remains the same. "The difference is that we are trying to, instead of having a good number of people getting maximum protection, we make sure we get the maximum number of people get good protection," said Ong, citing a Chinese proverb.

"If all goes smoothly, some time in August, about 4.7 million individuals will be covered by vaccination, at least one dose."

Ong added that those who have booked their second dose can volunteer to push back the appointment, so that someone else can receive their first dose.

To date, about 71 per cent of eligible seniors aged 60 and above, and close to 66 per cent of eligible persons aged 45 to 59, have received the COVID-19 vaccination or booked their vaccination appointments.

Singapore's vaccine remains limited given high global demand, said the Ministry of Health in a media release. "We will continue to roll out our vaccination programme, but now in five-year age bands, starting with those aged 40 to 44 years, and progressively moving to younger age bands."

Extension of Pfizer vaccine to children

On the extension of vaccination to individuals aged 12-15, the Health Sciences Authority has authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for this age group. The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination has also endorsed this interim authorisation of the vaccine, taking into account the safety, efficacy and tolerability of the vaccine, and the study design of clinical trials for this age group.

The Committee has also studied scientific evidence globally in clinical trials and roll-out of vaccines regarding the vaccine dosing interval of between six and eight weeks. It is of the view that the maximum interval between the doses can be extended to up to eight weeks to maximise vaccine coverage, without materially impacting the eventual overall immune response, as long as the second dose is eventually administered.

At a virtual press conference on Sunday, Ong said the government was considering such a vaccine strategy, with the aim of giving as many people as possible a "good level of protection" against COVID-19.

"There have been many international studies. And (they show) that even with one dose, it confers good protection without compromising efficacy," he added.

The Ministry of Health confirmed 38 new COVID-19 cases in Singapore on Tuesday, taking the country's total case count to 61,651.

Of them, 27 are local transmissions in the community, of whom 16 are linked to previous cases. Amongst them, 14 had already been placed on quarantine earlier.

Eleven remaining cases are imported, of whom six are returning Singaporeans or permanent residents.

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