COVID vaccination in Singapore 69% effective against Delta variant: Ong Ye Kung

A medical worker prepares a syringe at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination center in Singapore March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su
A medical worker prepares a syringe at a coronavirus disease vaccination centre in Singapore on 8 March, 2021. (PHOTO: Reuters)

SINGAPORE — Vaccination in Singapore against the contagious Delta variant, first identified in India last year, has proven to be about 69 per cent effective regardless of symptoms, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Wednesday (7 July).

The co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce was citing results from a recent study conducted by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) during a virtual doorstop interview.

The study involved about 1,000 household contacts of COVID-19 cases reported in Singapore between September last year and end of May.

"(69 per cent) is quite consistent with other international observations. Recently, there was a reported figure from Israel that the Pfizer vaccine efficacy against infection is 64 per cent," Ong noted.

He added that the data will be submitted for international publication to highlight Singapore’s contribution to the understanding of the Delta variant and the vaccines.

Separately, data shows that the vaccination's protection against symptomatic disease is between 80 and 90 per cent, as well as 93 per cent against severe COVID-19 that requires oxygen supplementation or a stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) or causes death, Ong noted.

"Amongst the local cases reported since 11 April, only one per cent of those vaccinated required oxygen and none were admitted to ICU, compared to 10 per cent of unvaccinated cases who developed severe illnesses," he reiterated.

Moving towards endemic COVID

Half of Singapore's population is expected to have received two doses of vaccines around the last week of July, Ong revealed.

"When we reach this 50 per cent two doses milestone, it will be timely for us to have a more definitive roadmap to transit towards endemic COVID. The transition will be done in phases, in a safe and cautious way," he said.

As of Wednesday, 2.1 million – or 39 per cent – of the population have received two doses, with an average of 76,000 individuals vaccinated per day. Singapore has a total capacity of 80,000 vaccinations per day.

Ong noted that seniors above 70 years old who have received at least one dose, or booked an appointment accounted for the lowest percentage at 71 per cent compared with 78 to 86 per cent in the younger age groups.

He said that authorities will be making "a bigger push" to reach out to seniors, "knocking on their doors if necessary".

"If you look at the numbers, they are all hovering about 80 per cent except for the seniors above 70 years old. Which means, we can realistically expect our population eventually to reach this level of vaccination, about 80 per cent or so," Ong said.

Some 131,000 have moved forward their appointments to four weeks after their first jab instead of six to eight weeks, while about 200,000 have yet to rebook them, he added.

Delta variant causing COVID spike

The contagious Delta variant – or B16172 – had been designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is fast becoming the globally dominant variant of the disease.

It has been detected in some 100 countries and is the driving force behind major spikes in infections globally.

As of 31 May, 550 – of 940 local and imported cases here involving a variant of concern – are of the Delta variant, according to the authorities.

According to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), the world's largest database of novel coronavirus genome sequences, there are 1,012 cases of the Delta variant in Singapore, with the latest occurrence logged on 27 June by a team at the Singapore General Hospital's microbiology department.

The database noted that 246 cases of the variant were recorded in the past four weeks, making up 96.1 per cent of all reported COVID-19 cases in Singapore during the same period.

According to the GISAID, the first case of the Delta variant in Singapore was detected on 26 February.

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