Expect yearly Covid-19 jabs in Singapore: Health Minister

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament on Monday that Covid-19 vaccinations will be part of the “new normal” in Singapore and will be encouraged every year – like the flu jab.

His statement was made to address concerns regarding the global Covid-19 situation and the reopening of China on Sunday.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been infected in recent week in China as the country lifts its zero-Covid policy after three years.

While other countries have implemented restrictions on travellers from China, Singapore’s border measures and requirements for those travelling and holding work passes from China have remained unchanged.

Ong said that the spike in cases in China is part of the new norm and added that a wave could happen to another region at another time.

He assured that Singapore will continue to monitor the global situation and up its border measures when needed. However, he also added that the best defense is to keep up with up-to-date vaccinations.

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He said, “Some people are asking when is vaccination going to end? To be very honest, Covid-19 vaccinations have become part of the new norm. For an endemic disease like influenza, vaccinations are encouraged every year, which will help avoid many deaths.”

He sees the endemic Covid-19 going the same route.

As it stands, 60% of people in Singapore aged 18 and above are up to date with their jabs.

‘Up-to-date’ means having received at least the minimum protection – which is three mRNA or Novavax/Nuvaxovid doses, or four Sinovac-CoronaVac doses – with an additional booster dose between five months and a year from the last vaccine dose.

Ong is hopeful about the introduction of the bivalent vaccinations for both Moderna and Pfizer, and is certain it will provide better protection.

Mr Ang Wei Neng of West Coast GRC also asked about Singapore’s definition of “full vaccination” for travellers and Ong said that they will adopt the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition, which is less stringent.

The current WHO definition reads: “A person is considered to be fully vaccinated 2 weeks after receiving the final recommended vaccine dose(s) of a WHO-approved vaccine or vaccine combination as indicated in their list.”

Ong added that the definition has worked well for Singapore so far but if there is a need, it will be reviewed.

Currently, walk-ins are allowed for Covid-19 jabs at vaccination centers from Jan. 4.

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