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'Too early' to determine if additional COVID-19 vaccine doses needed: Ong Ye Kung

'Too early' to determine if additional COVID-19 vaccine doses needed: Ong Ye Kung

A COVID-19 vaccination exercise at Tanjong Pagar Community Centre in Singapore on Jan 27, 2021. (File photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday (Jan 7) said that it was "too early" to determine if further doses of the COVID-19 vaccine would be required. 

In a Facebook post, Mr Ong answered a series of FAQs following the multi-ministry task force press conference earlier this week.

One of the queries asked: "Now that we must get a third dose to get our vaccination status extended, does that mean there will be a fourth, fifth, sixth dose?"

Mr Ong stated that Israel is the only country so far to administer a fourth dose for people who are not immunocompromised. 

"It is too early to answer that question. If we look at an endemic disease like Influenza, people take annual vaccines to protect themselves. This is because the Influenza virus keeps mutating so a new vaccine dose is necessary every year," he said.

"So whether we need future COVID-19 vaccine doses, depends on how fast the protection from three doses wanes, and whether the virus keeps mutating."

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday announced that a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine boosts antibodies five-fold a week after the shot is administered. The country is now administering fourth doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to people over 60, health workers and immunocompromised patients.

In his post, Mr Ong also detailed the recommendation for booster shots for those who have recovered from COVID-19. 

"If you have recovered well from an infection, without complications, your immune system would have gone through a strong stimulus. Think of it as a fairly powerful vaccination shot," he said.

The Health Minister described various combinations of infection with mRNA vaccination doses and whether or not they would allow a person to be considered boosted. 

"Rule of thumb, if you are infected while unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, you need two more doses to be considered boosted," added Mr Ong. 

However, there is no rush to get boosted for those who have been infected and then vaccinated, or those who have been infected in between vaccine doses.

"Our experts tell us that under these scenarios, the immunity takes longer to wane, beyond nine months. So you will get the green light for booster (vaccinated differentiated safe management measures) until our experts advise that it is time to boost.

"But if you want the extra protection, it is safe to get the boost, and our vaccination centres will allow you to do so," he said.

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Source: CNA/ic(zl)

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