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Singapore averted more than 8,000 COVID-19 deaths in last 5 months of 2021 with public health measures, vaccination: Report

Singapore averted more than 8,000 COVID-19 deaths in last 5 months of 2021 with public health measures, vaccination: Report

The COVID-19 vaccine being administered at Kolam Ayer Community Club, Singapore, on Apr 21, 2021. (Photo: CNA/Marcus Mark Ramos)

SINGAPORE: About 8,000 COVID-19 deaths were averted in the last five months of 2021 because of Singapore's public health measures and efforts to vaccinate a high proportion of the population, according to estimates from the Ministry of Health (MOH).

MOH figures in a report issued by the Ministry of Finance on Thursday (Feb 17) indicated that between Aug 1, 2021, and Dec 31, 2021, when Delta variant infections peaked in Singapore, vaccines averted about 8,000 deaths, 33,000 severe cases and 112,000 hospitalisation episodes.

These numbers were included in a report on the impact of key COVID-19 Budget measures, under a section assessing the impact of Singapore's public health response to the pandemic.

It said that Singapore has kept its COVID-19 death rate low, at 15.7 deaths per 100,000 of the population.

Until August 2021, the low death rate was "primarily through safe management measures and border restrictions". With Singapore having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world (87.8 per cent), it facilitated "a safe and progressive reopening" of the economy over the course of last year.

"It has also enabled Singapore to ride through the ongoing Omicron wave without having to tighten restrictions," according to the report.

The estimates of the health outcomes were derived from constructing an alternative scenario where the population was unvaccinated.

It used local estimates of vaccine effectiveness. A local cohort study of COVID-19 patients and their household contacts found that unvaccinated contacts were more likely to be infected than vaccinated contacts, with complete vaccination providing vaccine effectiveness of 56.4 per cent against infection.

Among COVID-19 cases aged 12 and above that were reported between Aug 1, 2021 and Dec 31, 2021, fully vaccinated individuals had substantially lower rates of hospitalisations, severe disease and deaths, compared to unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, said the report.

MOH's simulation indicated that without vaccines, Singapore would have experienced more than double the number of COVID-19 cases. 

There could also have been more than eight times the number of hospitalisations and more than 11 times the number of severe cases and deaths.

Between Aug 1 and Dec 31 last year, there were 785 deaths related to COVID-19, and MOH's modelling found that the number could have been 8,778 without vaccination.

"These estimates likely underestimate the benefits of vaccination, as they do not factor in the effect of vaccinations in reducing the chain of transmission and the likelihood of worse mortality outcomes if healthcare facilities had to manage a significantly higher caseload," said the report.

As of noon on Feb 16, deaths from COVID-19 in Singapore stood at 926.

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Source: CNA/hm(mi)

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