SINGAPORE: From Feb 14, those aged 18 and above will have to take a booster shot within 270 days of completing their primary vaccination series in order to maintain a fully vaccinated status against COVID-19, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday (Jan 5).
The new rule will apply to those whose final vaccine dose was taken on May 20 last year or before, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung at a multi-ministry task force press conference.
“From now to Feb 13, 2022, as long as you have taken two doses of mRNA or three doses of the Sinovac, Sinopharm vaccine, regardless of how long ago you have received those jabs, you will still be deemed as fully vaccinated," he said.
“Then on Feb 14, 2022, if your last vaccine dose was taken before May 20, 2021 - that is 270 days or nine months ago - your full vaccination status will lapse.
"So to maintain your full vaccination status, you will need to take a booster vaccine dose before the deadline of Feb 14," Mr Ong added.
Those who have not reached the nine-month expiry by then, or who are medically ineligible for boosters, will not be affected.
Authorities are announcing this updated policy more than one month in advance so that those vaccination status may lapse next month will have a chance to get their booster jabs early and before the deadline, the minister said.
In a separate press release, authorities said those aged 18 and above who have completed the primary vaccination series and are eligible for a booster shot will hold a fully vaccinated status for 270 days after their last vaccine jab.
They are recommended to get a booster jab “from around five months thereafter … and no later than 270 days thereafter, to ensure an optimal level of protection,” it said.
“Upon receiving their booster, they will continue to be considered as fully vaccinated beyond the 270 days,” MOH said in its press release, noting that this is in line with recommendations from the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination.
This will also apply to individuals who received recognised non-mRNA primary vaccination regimens offered under the national vaccination programme, such as three doses of the Sinovac-CoronaVac, or three doses of Sinopharm vaccines, as well as regimens of other World Health Organization emergency use list vaccines.
For this group, most will not be due for a booster for some time, MOH said.
“We expect the Novavax vaccine, which is a non-mRNA vaccine, to be available to them as an option by then,” it added.
During the press conference, MOH’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak said the Health Sciences Authority is completing the process of evaluating the Novavax vaccine and is expected to release a statement soon.
“We are very optimistic that we will be able to get authorisation to use the Novavax vaccine as part of our national vaccination programme and the (expert committee is) working through what the recommendations will be,” Assoc Prof Mak said.
If the vaccine is used, authorities expect it to have an “important role” as a non-mRNA vaccine alternative for the purposes of boosting the population, he added.
“(The) evidence today shows a better vaccine effectiveness against the Delta and Omicron compared to some other non-mRNA vaccines that we have available in Singapore. So, it is a very high likelihood that we will make further recommendations concerning the use of Novavax as a booster vaccine as part of the national vaccination programme.”
"WEAKER" PROTECTION AGAINST OMICRON
Mr Ong said international data has shown that a primary vaccination series offers “weaker” protection against the Omicron variant, compared to the Delta variant.
“It also wanes quicker, typically after five to six months. However, boosters will restore the vaccine protection against infection and severe illnesses from Omicron,” the minister said. “Vaccination and boosters, therefore, continue to be our primary response.”
Singapore is now delivering more than 50,000 vaccination and booster jabs a day.
So far, more than 87 per cent of the country’s population has received two doses of a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, while more than 42 per cent have received a booster shot.
“Even as we accelerate the pace of vaccination and boosters, we must not lose our advantage over the virus and we need to keep our war of resilience strong,” said Mr Ong.
Invitations for booster shots are sent out five months after an individual has completed their primary vaccination series.
To facilitate bookings for booster appointments in the coming weeks, invitations to seniors aged 60 and above will be sent out “a bit earlier”, Mr Ong said, adding that the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination has been consulted and is “supportive” of this move.
“I urge all eligible individuals to take your boosters promptly.”
For vaccinated persons who have recovered from COVID-19, no additional booster dose is required for now, authorities added.
However, recovered persons who were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated before their infection should receive one dose of the mRNA vaccine at least three months after the infection to be considered as fully vaccinated.
For recovered individuals who have received a mixed vaccine combination incorporating Sinovac-CoronaVac or Sinopharm vaccines, they are recommended to take two doses.
The 270-day vaccination validity period does not apply to recovered persons who complete this vaccination requirement, MOH said.