Singapore will “very likely” start a COVID-19 vaccination booster exercise for people who are immunocompromised. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung recently discussed more about booster shots and why they may be needed for further protection from the coronavirus.
In a press release shared on Thursday (19 August), the Ministry of Health (MOH) has also said that the Expert Committee on COVID-19 vaccination will make recommendations concerning this booster exercise soon.
What Is A Booster Shot: Singapore “Very Likely” To Have COVID-19 Vaccination Booster Exercise
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While booster shots are still being studied, the multi-ministry task force is considering a third dose of the COVID-19 for those with severely compromised immune systems.
According to Mr Ong, who co-chairs the task force, this will include:
- Patients on cancer treatment
- Transplant patients
- Patients on immunosuppressive therapy
- End-stage kidney disease patients on dialysis
As to why this group of people will need a third dose, Mr Ong is reported by CNA as saying, “Because of their conditions, these persons react much less to vaccinations even after two doses, meaning they cannot produce as much antibodies or activate the necessary mechanisms to fight the virus.”
Since other countries have started administering vaccines earlier than Singapore, Mr Ong says this gives us the advantage of “observing and learning from their experiences.”
The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination has also been studying the results of the booster shot in these countries and is actively working on the booster programme.
Mr Ong had previously said that the booster shot exercise may begin around Chinese New Year next year, which is sometime in February.
Ensuring People Continue To Be Protected Even After Vaccination
Image source: Facebook / Ong Ye Kung
While a large proportion of Singapore’s population has now been vaccinated, MOH still has further plans to ensure that people are protected from COVID-19.
MOH is also looking into enhancing the immune system of people who have a weaker immune response to the vaccine despite having completed the full vaccination regime.
The ministry’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak said that this includes individuals who have an increased risk of getting infected even after being vaccinated.
“For example, they may have not mounted an adequate immune response to the original full two-dose regime, or they have a waning protection from vaccinations and therefore require augmentation of that immune response in order to give them further protection,” he said.
There have also been “quite a sizeable group” of individuals in Singapore who received the first jab of mRNA vaccine only to find out they were allergic to it before they could take a second dose of the Sinovac vaccine.
Mr Ong said that the expert committee is also closely monitoring this immune response.
Two “Key Things” To Consider Before Finalising Recommendations For Booster Shots
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While responding to questions about living with COVID-19 through an Instagram live broadcast, Mr Ong said that the expert committee is looking into two “key things” before they can finalise their recommendations. This includes the following:
- The incidence of adverse reactions and whether these will be lower or higher than the first or second dose of the vaccine. Mr Ong says that if it is high, they should also look into what steps to take to “mitigate and remove the risk.”
- Whether the booster shot should be from the same brand of vaccine. “There is scientific basis to suggest a heterologous strategy may confer stronger protection. The UK is implementing such a strategy, and we will be monitoring the outcome closely,” says the minister.
Mr Ong also pointed out examples in other countries such as Israel that started administering booster shots on Thursday to seniors and vulnerable people. The UK, Germany and France will also be doing the same in September.
As for the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, they have recommended a booster shot eight months from the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
When the expert committee has finalised its plans, Assoc Prof Mak says the authorities will then need to work through operational details. This includes knowing what type of vaccine will be provided as well as how and when the supplies would be delivered.
Mr Ong adds that the vaccination of children below 12 years should start around early 2022. This is when authorities have “properly studied the safety and efficacy aspects.”
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