SINGAPORE: Students will be the next group of people to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as Singapore speeds up its vaccination programme, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday (May 31).
In a televised speech, Mr Lee said that bookings for student vaccinations will open on Tuesday, with priority given to the graduating cohorts for O-Levels, N-Levels, and A-Levels, as well as special needs students.
This will then be followed by other students aged 12 years and over, including students in institutions of higher learning, he added.
"In this latest outbreak, we have seen more cases of children getting infected, in schools and tuition centres. The children were not seriously ill, but parents are naturally worried," Mr Lee said.
"Therefore, we will take full advantage of the June holidays to vaccinate students."
READ: More than 400,000 students aged 12 and above to receive COVID-19 vaccination invite from Jun 1
Mr Lee also revealed that since the last update by the multi-ministry task force, the Government has received further confirmation of faster vaccine deliveries over the next two months.
"Our 40 vaccination centres islandwide are running smoothly. The constraint is vaccine supply. This is why we have been working very hard to confirm and speed up deliveries of vaccines from our suppliers," he explained.
"With the latest supply schedule, we can further boost our vaccination programme. We can offer the vaccine to everyone, even sooner than we expected," he said.
After the students, Singapore will vaccinate the final remaining group – adults aged 39 years and younger, noted Mr Lee. This will begin about mid-June, he said.
“This group is quite large. Therefore, we will give the Singaporeans among them a two-week priority window to book your appointments first, before we open up generally to the rest who want to be vaccinated,” Mr Lee added.
READ: Singapore 'on track' to bring COVID-19 outbreak under control; curbs may be eased after Jun 13: PM Lee
Mr Lee noted that the goal is to protect as many people as possible, as soon as possible, especially because of new COVID-19 variants.
"The MTF (multi-ministry task force) recently announced that we would speed up vaccinations in the next two months, and prioritise first dose vaccinations. This is in progress," Mr Lee said.
“This approach will quickly provide the maximum number of people with good protection, instead of a good number of people with maximum protection,” he added.
Singapore is vaccinating “as many people as our supplies allow”, said the Prime Minister, adding that while the vaccination centres are running smoothly, the constraint is vaccine supply.
“I am happy to report that since the last update by the MTF, we have received further confirmation of faster vaccine deliveries over the next two months,” said Mr Lee.
“With the latest supply schedule, we can further boost our vaccination programme. We can offer the vaccine to everyone, even sooner than we expected.”
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Singapore has tightened its restrictions on social gatherings and activities to minimise transmission of COVID-19 after several clusters emerged.
The additional measures under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) took effect on May 16. Under this phase, group sizes for gatherings have been reduced to two people, while dining-in at food and beverage outlets is not allowed. People should also work from home by default during this period.
READ: Singapore ‘nudging’ in right direction with drop in unlinked cases over past two weeks: Ong Ye Kung
WALK-IN VACCINATIONS FOR ELDERLY
Singapore has made "good progress" since vaccinations started in December, said Mr Lee.
"Our healthcare and frontline workers, and the majority of those 45 and above, have already received at least their first dose," he added.
"These are the ones more at risk from COVID-19. Now, vaccination of those aged 40 to 44 is underway."
When it comes to Singapore's elderly population, Mr Lee said that their response has been "excellent". Nearly three-quarters of Singapore's elderly people – about 760,000 senior citizens aged 60 and above – have had at least one jab or booked a slot already, he said.
However, he noted that about 280,000 elderly people have yet to book appointments and urged them to do so as soon as possible.
"Please come forward to get jabbed as soon as possible. Most people of your age have already been vaccinated, including many of your friends and neighbours," he said.
“The President and I have been vaccinated too, and so have all my Cabinet colleagues. The vaccines are safe, and they will keep you safe."
There are plans to make the vaccination process “even more convenient” for elderly people, said Mr Lee. Those above 60 years old can now walk into any vaccination centre and get vaccinated on the spot, he said.
There will be no need to register or book an appointment in advance.
READ: Singapore must test 'faster, more liberally and extensively'; DIY tests soon available over the counter, says PM Lee
"If you are not mobile, or are unable to make your way to the vaccination centre, contact the Silver Generation Office," Mr Lee said.
"A doctor and nurse will visit you at your home to give you the vaccination. For those with elderly parents or relatives, please encourage and persuade your old folks to get vaccinated."
As of Monday, nearly four in 10 residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine, said Mr Lee.
READ: Household members of people under COVID-19 quarantine now required to self-isolate at home: MOH
"Our next target is to get two-thirds of residents vaccinated with at least the first dose. With our accelerated vaccination programme, we should be able to do this by early July, provided supplies come in as planned," he added.
"And everyone who is eligible for vaccination and wants one should be able to get at least their first jab by National Day. Whether you are old or young, please come forward to be vaccinated once it is your turn.
“With the more infectious virus strains, we need as many people as possible to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity, or get close to it.”