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365-day validity of ‘fully vaccinated’ status will be reviewed as more data on vaccine protection is available, says MOH

SINGAPORE — When enacting Covid-19 regulations earlier this year, the authorities indicated an interim timeframe of 365 days for a person’s “fully vaccinated” status to remain valid so that vaccine-related infection controls could be implemented, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.

365-day validity of ‘fully vaccinated’ status will be reviewed as more data on vaccine protection is available, says MOH

Both mRNA Covid-19 vaccines and non-mRNA vaccines approved in Singapore are subject to an interim 365-day validity date under the law.

  • An interim timeframe of 365 days for a person’s "fully vaccinated" status was in force by law
  • This was so that regulators could enforce vaccine-related infection controls
  • This timeframe will be reviewed as more data of the Covid-19 vaccines are available, MOH said
  • Experts said that more studies need to be done, but it is likely more booster shots will be needed in future to retain vaccination status

 

SINGAPORE — When enacting Covid-19 regulations earlier this year, the authorities indicated an interim timeframe of 365 days for a person’s “fully vaccinated” status to remain valid so that vaccine-related infection controls could be implemented, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.

As more data on the protection provided by Covid-19 vaccines over time becomes available, regulators will review this time frame, the ministry added on Friday (Nov 12).

MOH issued this clarification in response to media queries over a reader’s letter to The Straits Times on Wednesday.

The reader, who had combed through the Infectious Diseases (Mass Gathering Testing for Coronavirus Disease 2019) Regulations 2021, noticed that the law states that a person's fully vaccinated status expires 365 plus 14 days after the second dose.

A person is considered fully vaccinated 14 days after the second dose. 

The reader asked whether this meant that the Government intends for all Singapore residents to take booster shots to be considered fully vaccinated after a year. 
Another question was that when the efficacy of the booster vaccine diminishes, would residents have to take another booster to maintain their fully vaccinated status.

In its response, MOH said that it regularly reviews the evidence from studies in Singapore and abroad on the protection provided by the Covid-19 vaccines.

“As these studies are ongoing, when enacting the regulations earlier, we had in the interim specified a duration of 365 days... to allow persons who have completed the primary series of their vaccinations to be exempted from vaccination-differentiated safe management measures.”

Exemption from these measures mean that fully vaccinated individuals are allowed to dine in at food-and-beverage establishments and enter malls and large standalone stores, while those who are unvaccinated cannot.

As more data becomes available, including on the increased protection provided by booster doses, the expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination will study the evidence and make its recommendations. MOh will then review the stipulated time frame.

Both messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines and non-mRNA vaccines approved here are subject to the interim 365-day validity date under the law.

Two doses of the mRNA vaccines provide excellent protection against severe disease, but there will be “waning protection against infection”, the ministry said.

“Hence MOH recommends all eligible vaccinated persons to receive their booster doses to improve their protection against Covid-19 infection and reduce transmission,” it added. “This will also further increase protection against severe disease.”

In Singapore, the Covid-19 vaccines were rolled out in late December last year, with healthcare workers being the first to receive them. They were then progressively given to more front-line workers and then to seniors in January this year, before being offered to other groups. 

WHAT HEALTH EXPERTS SAY

Infectious disease experts were split on what the authorities may do in the future when vaccine effectiveness from the two-dose regimen wanes.

However, they all agreed that there needs to be more studies done to determine how long a person’s fully vaccinated status should last.

Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang said there is “every likelihood” that the booster dose, and future booster doses, may be necessary for a person to be considered fully vaccinated. He is the vice-dean of global health with the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

He said that a one-year expiry tag is “arbitrary but reasonable from a scientific perspective”, considering what medical experts understand of the immune response after Covid-19 vaccination so far.

“This expiry date may be revised as more evidence accumulates,” he added.

Agreeing, Professor Ooi Eng Eong from the Emerging Infectious Diseases programme at Duke-NUS Medical School said that ongoing disease surveillance should help determine when booster shots are necessary.

A rising trend in fully vaccinated people getting Covid-19 would be “the clearest indicator that the protection from vaccination has waned and that booster shots are needed to restore immunity levels”, he said.

Whether booster vaccines would in future be required to retain one’s fully vaccinated status will likely depend on several factors, such as whether the breakthrough disease is mild or severe, and the capacity of the healthcare system to manage the number of such cases, he added.

Professor Paul Tambyah, president of the Asia Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection, said that the vaccines were rolled out only earlier this year, and no one other than clinical trial participants have been inoculated for more than a year so far.

“This is a policy decision and I suspect a legal one as a time limit had to be placed on the regulation,” he said.

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine vaccine booster vaccination expiry law immunity

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