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Singapore's vaccine roll-out averted about 8,000 deaths, says MOF report on Covid-19 measures' impact

SINGAPORE — An estimated 8,000 Covid-19-related deaths were averted during the peak of the Delta coronavirus wave last year, owing to Singapore’s public health measures and a concerted effort to vaccinate a high proportion of the population here, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said.

In 2021, S$4.8 billion was dedicated to public health and safe reopening measures in Singapore, such as expanding the nation-wide vaccination programme.
In 2021, S$4.8 billion was dedicated to public health and safe reopening measures in Singapore, such as expanding the nation-wide vaccination programme.
  • The Ministry of Health carried out a simulation to find out how Singapore would have fared without Covid-19 vaccines
  • It found that the country would have experienced more than 11 times the number of severe Covid-19 cases and deaths during the peak of infections last year
  • This was revealed by the Ministry of Finance in a newly published paper 
  • In 2021, S$4.8 billion was dedicated to public health and safe reopening measures, such as expanding the nation-wide vaccination programme 

SINGAPORE — An estimated 8,000 Covid-19-related deaths were averted during the peak of the Delta coronavirus wave last year, owing to Singapore’s public health measures and a concerted effort to vaccinate a high proportion of the population here, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said.

Furthermore, without vaccines, Singapore would have experienced more than 11 times the number of severe coronavirus cases and deaths between Aug 1 and Dec 31 last year.

These figures were revealed on Thursday (Feb 17) in a paper by the ministry, which assessed the impact of key Covid-19 Budget measures.

Aside from various initiatives that were introduced over the past two years to help households and businesses tide over the impact of the global health crisis, an S$11 billion Covid-19 Resilience Package was introduced in last year’s Budget to safeguard public health, among other goals.

Part of the package (S$4.8 billion) was dedicated to public health and safe reopening measures, such as expanding the nation-wide vaccination programme and maintaining existing precautions against infections, the contact-tracing system, testing regime and safe-distancing rules.

In its paper, MOF said that up until August last year, Singapore’s Covid-19 deaths were kept low primarily through infection controls and border restrictions.

“This allowed the Government to buy time to vaccinate the population.” 

Singapore then experienced a peak in infections by the Delta virus strain from Aug 1 to Dec 31 last year.

Regional news outlet CNA previously reported that while the Ministry of Health (MOH) did not say when the first Delta case was confirmed in Singapore, figures from the global epidemic tracker Gisaid showed that the first Delta case was detected here on April 1 last year.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

A simulation conducted by MOH, which was highlighted in the paper, showed that without vaccines, Singapore would have experienced twice the number of Covid-19 cases.

Moreover, it would have also experienced more than eight times the number of hospitalisation episodes and more than 11 times the number of severe cases and deaths between Aug 1 and Dec 31 last year.

To simulate the figures, MOH used both domestic estimates of vaccine effectiveness and age-specific differences in outcomes between vaccinated and unvaccinated Covid-19 patients reported during that period.

The following are the figures from the simulation.

Total cases

  • Actual: 198,361
  • Without vaccination: 436,475
  • Difference: 238,114

Total number of hospitalisations

  • Actual: 15,472
  • Without vaccination: 127,170
  • Difference: 111,698

Total number of severe cases (needing oxygen support or intensive care, or resulting in death)

  • Actual: 3,003
  • Without vaccination: 35,724
  • Difference: 32,721

Total deaths

  • Actual: 785
  • Without vaccination: 8,778
  • Difference: 7,993

Total life-years lost

  • Actual: 9,218
  • Without vaccination: 143,102
  • Difference: 133,884

MOF added that the estimates likely “underestimate the benefits of vaccination” because they do not factor in the effect of vaccinations in reducing the chain of transmission.

For example, the chain of transmission could have led to the probability of worse mortality outcomes if healthcare facilities had to deal with a significantly higher caseload.

HOW SINGAPORE COMPARES WITH OTHER ECONOMIES

The paper also showed how Singapore compared with other major economies around the world when it came to the rate of Covid-19 deaths for every 100,000 persons.

Based on figures provided by the scientific publication Our World In Data, as of Jan 30 this year, Singapore had 87.8 fully vaccinated individuals for every 100 persons.

In terms of Covid-19 deaths, there were 15.7 for every 100,000 persons.

This placed Singapore just behind Japan, which had the third-lowest Covid-19-related death rate at 14.9 per 100,000 persons. The rate of vaccinated Japanese citizens was 79.1 per 100 persons.

South Korea had the second-lowest Covid-19-related death rate at 13.2 per 100,000 persons. It had 85.8 fully vaccinated individuals for every 100 persons.

Hong Kong had the lowest death rate at just 2.8 per 100,000 persons. There were 63.7 fully vaccinated individuals per 100 persons.

Trailing behind Singapore was Israel, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, where the proportion of Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 for these four countries ranged between 93.9 and 265.8. Their proportions of fully vaccinated individuals per 100 persons ranged between 63.6 and 65.6.

MOF said that the roll-out of the vaccination programme played a crucial role in Singapore’s transition towards living with Covid-19, and that it allowed the nation to ride through the continuing wave for the Omicron virus variant without having to tighten restrictions.

“Having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world enabled Singapore to keep its Covid-19 death rate low, and facilitated a safe and progressive reopening of the economy over the course of 2021,” it added. 

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus death budget Resilience Package coronavirus vaccine MOF

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