SINGAPORE: Singaporean children under the age of 18 will be eligible for free vaccinations at all polyclinics and Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) general practitioner (GP) clinics by the end of 2020, Senior Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Health Amrin Amin announced on Thursday (Mar 5).
The vaccinations that apply are those recommended under the National Chidlhood Immunisation Schedule (NCIS), said Mr Amrin in Parliament during the Community of Supply debate.
“This measure is part of our ongoing efforts to ensure Singapore remains one of the best places to raise a child. I urge parents to take advantage of the free vaccinations to give our children the best possible start,” he said.
Currently, most vaccinations, including those against diseases with high outbreak potential such as hepatitis B, as well as mumps, measles and rubella, are only fully subsidised at polyclinics.
Screening for developmental delays is also only fully subsidised at polyclinics. Pneumococcal vaccination is currently not subsidised.
Singaporean adults will also be eligible for subsidies for vaccinations recommended as part of the National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS) at polyclinics, said Mr Amrin.
Lower-to-middle-income adults will receive a 75 per cent subsidy, while all other adults will get a 50 per cent subsidy, he said.
Pioneer and Merdeka Generation seniors will get an additional 50 per cent and 25 per cent off respectively.
Details on subsidies for NAIS vaccinations at CHAS GP clinics have not been revealed, but they will be similar to the means-tested subsidies to be offered at polyclinics, said Mr Amrin.
There are currently no government subsidies for adult vaccinations in such primary care settings, he said.
Under NAIS, seven types of vaccines are recommended, to protect against 11 diseases including influenza and pneumococcal disease, said Mr Amrin.
The vaccinations are recommended mainly to those with medical conditions such as chronic heart diseases and chronic respiratory diseases, as well as seniors aged 65 and above.
To ensure cost savings are passed on to Singaporeans by CHAS GP clinics, MOH will introduce fee caps on subsidised child and adult vaccinations administered at these clinics, he added.
In a separate media release, MOH said this is to "increase the affordability and accessibility of nationally recommended vaccinations”.
“With the introduction of the subsidies, we hope to reduce the barriers for vaccination,” said the ministry.
MOH introduced NAIS in November 2017 to provide guidance on vaccinations that persons aged 18 and older should adopt to protect themselves against vaccine-preventable diseases, it added.
“MOH has also worked with vaccine manufacturers so CHAS GP clinics can get these vaccines at favourable prices,” said Mr Amrin.
“We are studying ways to help those who may have difficulties going to polyclinics and CHAS GPs, such as nursing home residents, to benefit from these subsidies.”
Mr Amrin said that the Health Ministry aims to increase vaccination coverage among adult Singaporeans to more than 50 per cent by 2025.
He also noted that coverage vaccinations in Singapore is high, with most vaccinations exceeding 95 per cent coverage in the past five years due to efforts in health promotion, comprehensive childhood immunisation services and a robust school health service.
“The aim is to reduce the number of people who fall ill from vaccine-preventable diseases,” he said.
Adding that Singaporeans with chronic medical conditions are more vulnerable and fall sick more easily, he added: “If diseases can be prevented, we can gain system-wide savings in the long run.
"Essentially, this is what we are doing: Keep out vaccine-preventable diseases through vaccinations, keep our people out of hospitals and keep them healthy.”