All Singapore residents should be vaccinated: expert committee

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·3-min read

SINGAPORE — The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is suitable for use in those aged 16 and above, and everyone residing in Singapore who is medically eligible for vaccination against COVID-19 should be vaccinated.

These were part of the recommendations submitted to the government by the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a news release on Sunday (27 November).

The committee also advised that the government prioritise the use of the vaccine on two groups: those at high risk of contracting the coronavirus – such as healthcare and other frontline workers – and those who are most vulnerable to developing complications from it – such as the elderly and those with “vascular medical co-morbidities”.

Chaired by Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, who is also senior advisor to MOH’s director of medical services, the committee also noted that vaccination “should remain voluntary”.

The group was convened in October to advise the government on Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy. It submitted its recommendations to the government on Thursday.

“The Expert Committee has independently reviewed the clinical data on the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and concurs with the indications for the interim authorisation granted by the Health Sciences Authority for use of the vaccine in Singapore under the Pandemic Special Access Route,” said the release.

It noted that vaccine has demonstrated a high efficacy rate of 95 per cent and that the vaccine’s safety profile was consistent with the high standards set for other registered vaccines used for other diseases. Singapore received its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on 21 December, with more expected to arrive in the coming months.

On the matter of vaccinating the resident population – including citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders – the committee recommended that the government work to “achieve as high a level of population coverage for COVID-19 vaccination as possible”. This would not only reduce the size of the population at vulnerable to the coronavirus, but would also indirectly protect those who may not yet be suitable for vaccination.

As for the elderly, the committee recommended vaccinating those aged 70 and above first before moving on to those aged 60 to 69.

The committee also pointed out the importance of vaccinating “specific groups of persons who are of critical importance to the functioning of Singapore”, such as those involved in the country’s water and utilities as well as other nationally essential services.

“The prioritisation of these groups should be balanced carefully against the needs of persons prioritised based on public health grounds.

“On balance, the Committee recommends that around 5 per cent of available vaccine stocks at any given point in time should be set aside for such groups, to ensure that Singapore would be able to continue to function effectively as a nation, even in a local outbreak situation,” said the release.

“While Singapore currently has a low rate of local transmission of COVID- 19, we remain vulnerable to the threat of a surge in cases. As such, it is important that we achieve as comprehensive a coverage of COVID-19 vaccination as possible across the entire population,” said Assoc Prof Ong in the release.

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