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Covid-19 vaccination extended to residents aged 40-44; teams to be deployed to help those homebound get jabs

SINGAPORE — The Government is ramping up its Covid-19 vaccination programme by starting registration for people aged 40 to 44, and deploying doctors and nurses to homes to help those who are homebound or not mobile to receive their jabs.

A vaccination centre in Yew Tee.

A vaccination centre in Yew Tee.

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  • People aged 40 to 44 can register for Covid-19 vaccine jabs from May 19
  • The Government will deploy doctors and nurses to homes to help those with mobility issues to be vaccinated
  • The three to four weeks interval between the first and second dose will also be extended to six to eight weeks
  • This will allow 400,000 more individuals to be vaccinated by the end of July

 

SINGAPORE — The Government is ramping up its Covid-19 vaccination programme by starting registration for people aged 40 to 44, and deploying doctors and nurses to homes to help those who are homebound or not mobile to receive their jabs.

From Wednesday (May 19), residents aged between 40 and 44 can register themselves to get their Covid-19 vaccine jabs, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Tuesday.

In addition, the Health Sciences Authority has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for residents aged between 12 and 15 years old.

MOH also said that Singapore will be entering into its next phase of vaccination where the authorities will prioritise getting more people to have their first dose of the vaccine, to speed up its vaccination programme.

The three- to four-week interval between the first and second dose will also be extended to six to eight weeks.

Those who have scheduled their appointments for the second dose will not be affected.

“Our supply of vaccines has been steadily coming in, but remains limited given high global demand,” MOH said.

The vaccination programmes will now be rolled out in five-year bands and progressively move to younger age groups.

Individuals may register for vaccination online through vaccine.gov.sg. One or two weeks after registering, they will receive a short message service by phone with a personalised weblink to book their vaccination appointment.

The SMS will be sent progressively to eligible individuals to book their appointments on a first-come-first-served based on their time of registration.

Those who have registered earlier need not re-register.

Appointment slots are available up to mid-June and more slots will be made available as more supplies arrive, MOH said.

The limited supply is another factor behind the Government deciding to extend the interval between the first and second vaccine dose.

This approach was adopted after consultation with the expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination, which believed that the maximum interval between the first and second doses could be extended up to eight weeks.

MOH said that this strategy, which is already undertaken in other countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany, would allow more residents here to be vaccinated and benefit from the first dose of vaccine.

It also said that lengthening the dose interval does not cause detrimental effects to people who have been vaccinated.

As long as they eventually receive the second dose within the acceptable and recommended timeframe, they will still receive a strong immunological response and be protected from the virus.

“Lengthening the interval to between six to eight weeks will enable us to cover more people with the first dose of the vaccine more quickly, who will then have some protection. This will help protect more Singaporeans and optimise our vaccine supply,” MOH said.

Speaking at a press conference by the Government’s Covid-19 task force on Tuesday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that extending the timeline is akin to pushing back the demand for the second dose by another three to five weeks.

“This means you free up that dosage for the day for more people to take the first dose. That's how it works and the end point is the same, which is, at the end, everyone will get two doses, But now we prioritise, giving up more first doses early, and then more second doses,” he said.

With this new approach, 400,000 more people would have been vaccinated by the end of July.

Mr Ong also said that if the vaccination goes smoothly, 4.7 million individuals will be covered by at least one dose of vaccine sometime in August.

He added that it would not be wise to tie vaccination rates to the reopening of Singapore’s borders and economy. Instead, reopening should be pegged to indicators such as the number of infections, the number of unlinked infections and the severity of these infections.

“These are the outcomes that we should be looking at and the more mild the outcomes, the more we are confident that we can open up,” he said.

As for those who are homebound, MOH said that it has worked with the Health Promotion Board and the Agency for Integrated Care to deploy the home vaccination teams to vaccinate them at their own homes.

Those who are eligible will be approached by their current home care service provider to find out if they would like to be vaccinated at their home.

They may also register their interest directly with the service provider. Those who are not receiving any home care services may appeal to be vaccinated at their home by calling the MOH hotline 1800-333-9999.

MOH said that this service is strictly for residents who are homebound. Those who are not are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated at the vaccination centres.

As of May 17, the Government has administered more than 3.4 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Close to two million people here have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, of whom more than 1.4 million people have received their second dose and completed their vaccination.

When asked about the economic impact of the tightening of safe distancing measures, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce, said at the press conference that the outlook is very uncertain.

But he said that there will be continued recovery in some segments of the economy but it will depend on how long this latest outbreak, and the resultant measures to curb it, will last.

“Overall, I think there's still a good chance we can achieve positive growth at the end of the year, but certainly there will be greater impact on certain segments,” said Mr Wong.

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