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Plans afoot to deploy booster vaccine jabs as early as end-2021 if needed: Gan Kim Yong

SINGAPORE — Should booster jabs for Covid-19 vaccines become necessary, the Government is making plans to ensure that these can be deployed as soon as the end of this year, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said.

Plans afoot to deploy booster vaccine jabs as early as end-2021 if needed: Gan Kim Yong

Government planning teams in Singapore are looking into giving booster Covid-19 shots and are drawing up operational plans that can start from the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022, if these jabs are needed.

  • Data is still emerging on whether booster vaccine jabs are needed on top of the recommended two doses
  • If so, plans are afoot to roll out these jabs in Singapore as early as end-2021
  • For now, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong urged the public to focus on the present vaccine roll-out
  • The Government has struck advance purchase deals for other vaccines 


SINGAPORE — Should booster jabs for Covid-19 vaccines become necessary, the Government is making plans to ensure that these can be deployed as soon as the end of this year, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said. 

“For Covid-19, there may come a day when we have to continue to have regular booster jabs and we are putting in place plans to operationalise that,” he told Parliament on Tuesday (May 11) after delivering a ministerial statement on the Government’s pandemic response.

He was responding to Mr Seah Kian Peng, Member of Parliament (MP) for Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency, who asked about Singapore’s vaccine supply and the need for such booster shots.

In response, Mr Gan urged people to focus on the two-dose vaccination roll-out for the moment. 

He acknowledged that some Singaporeans would like answers on whether they need booster shots down the line, on top of the two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines approved here.

“I understand that some Singaporeans are anxious and want to know, should the booster jab be required, and what we need to do about it.” 

Government planning teams, Mr Gan said, are looking into the deployment of booster shots and are drawing up operational plans that can start from the end of this year or the beginning of next year, if these jabs are needed.

“At the end of the day, it may turn out to be similar to the flu jabs that we get every year. 

“Because of the variants, because of different viruses and bacteria that we are confronting, we need to continue to have booster jabs for flu vaccines.”

Last month, Pfizer chief Albert Bourla said that people would “likely” need a booster dose within 12 months of being fully inoculated.

Mr Gan said that the Health Sciences Authority and Singapore’s expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination were tracking vaccine studies about onward transmission, the durability of protection, and their effectiveness against emerging coronavirus variants of concern.

So far, data on the need for these boosters is still emerging from global and local studies, he said.

VACCINATION COST AND SUPPLIES

Mr Seah also asked Mr Gan about the cost of the nationwide vaccination exercise.

The MP said: “It is important that every Singaporean, and everyone here, knows how much we are spending to get all of us safe… Somebody has to pay for all this.”

In response, Mr Gan gave a ballpark figure of S$100 for each full vaccination regimen. This includes the costs of manpower and running the vaccination centres.

Mr Gan said that the cost varies from vaccine to vaccine: “A significant part of the cost is not in the vaccine itself but in the logistics of it, the cost of organising the vaccination centres, mobilising healthcare professionals and providing support for vaccine recipients.

“But, if you compare this with the cost of the (pandemic’s) impact on lives and our livelihoods, I think it is a small price to pay, and we need to continue to prepare ourselves and to focus on the vaccination programme.”

Mr Seah and other MPs wondered whether China’s Sinovac vaccine and other vaccines would be approved here, and what would happen to Singapore’s vaccination strategy if Sinovac is denied use here.

In February, Singapore received its first shipment of the Sinovac vaccine.

In March, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) told TODAY that it had begun reviewing data on the Sinovac jab and had asked for more information from the Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company.

Earlier, Singapore had struck advance purchase agreements with Sinovac as well as Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, to secure a diversified vaccine portfolio.

Mr Gan said that HSA was still evaluating Sinovac and a few other vaccines for use in Singapore.

Responding to Mr Seah, he said that Singapore had advance purchase agreements with “several other alternatives”, but could not disclose more information because of confidentiality clauses.

“As and when these contracts materialise, and as and when we are able to supply and to deploy these vaccines, we will share more details with fellow Singaporeans."

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