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Bivalent vaccines for 18-49 age group to come later in 2022, as Singapore secures more supplies: Ong Ye Kung

The bivalent Moderna/Spikevax vaccine was rolled out on Oct 14. 

Bivalent vaccines for 18-49 age group to come later in 2022, as Singapore secures more supplies: Ong Ye Kung

A photo showing a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (File photo: AFP/Clement Mahoudeau)

SINGAPORE: Singapore plans to invite people aged between 18 and 49 to take their COVID-19 bivalent vaccines later in the year as more supplies are secured, Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung said on Thursday (Oct 20).

Mr Ong added that the authorities hope to secure these supplies in a matter of weeks. 

He was responding to questions from MPs Joan Pereira (PAP-Tanjong Pagar) and Jamus Lim (WP-Sengkang) on the timeline of the vaccines, how they compared with Moderna and Pfizer boosters in terms of efficacy and when someone who has recovered from COVID-19 should take this vaccine.

The Government had announced earlier that those who have yet to achieve minimum protection - or are aged 50 and above who last received their vaccine dose more than five months ago - can walk into any of nine Joint Testing and Vaccination Centres to receive their bivalent vaccine dose from Oct 14. 

Bivalent vaccines provide better protection against newer COVID-19 variants compared to the original vaccines, said Mr Ong. 

They work by simulating an immune response against two different antigens. For example, Moderna’s bivalent vaccine has been updated to protect against the Omicron BA.1 variant, in addition to the original strain.

The initial COVID-19 vaccines used in Singapore have been monovalent, which means they only contain or encode the spike protein of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The Government rolled out the bivalent Moderna/Spikevax vaccine on Oct 14, with the bivalent Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty expected to be available by the end of the year. 

While Singapore is prioritising people aged 50 and above for the additional booster dose, it is planning to invite those aged between 18 and 49 later in the year. 

If an eligible person is infected, they should wait three months to take the bivalent vaccine, Mr Ong said. 

MP Leon Perera (WP-Aljunied) also asked if the Health Ministry would consider reopening vaccination centres at community clubs and centres in areas with more elderly residents. 

Mr Ong said: "Vaccination Centres and our Joint Testing and Vaccination Centres - they are chosen based on their proximity to high population density areas, good accessibility, and availability of the venue to support vaccination operations over a sustained period of time."

Currently, there are 11 Joint Testing and Vaccination Centres and Vaccination Centres, and a network of 221 participating Public Health Preparedness Clinics and 20 polyclinics, which provide sufficient convenience and access to vaccinations, said Mr Ong. 

"A BOOSTER EVERY YEAR"

In a supplementary question, Ms Pereira said that many elderly residents who have taken second boosters are not sure if they can take bivalent vaccines and when to do so. 

Noting that this was a common question, Mr Ong said: "The answer is yes,  five months after their second booster, they are recommended to take the bivalent vaccine.

"As I explained earlier, we have moved to a new system where we stop counting the number of booster shots we are taking. We are living with the COVID-19 virus ... what we are recommending people now is that - two concepts - one, please attain your minimum protection which is three doses of mRNA."

"Beyond that, take an additional latest vaccine five months after your last shot ... and no longer than 12 months," he added.

"Essentially for most people, it works out to taking a booster every year." 

MP Yip Hon Weng (PAP-Yio Chu Kang) then asked if people who have had multiple infections should still take their boosters. 

Mr Ong said in reply that it was best to "ignore infections".

"Because now that we have hybrid immunity from our vaccinations as well as infection, there are many individuals now who hardly have any response or symptoms after they are infected, so I think it's best not to count infection. Take our boosters and take our jabs diligently," he said. 

Source: CNA/wt(ac)
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