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Updated COVID-19 vaccination requirements and bivalent vaccines: Here's what you need to know

The Ministry of Health has issued new guidelines on how to determine if a COVID-19 vaccination is "up-to-date". 

Updated COVID-19 vaccination requirements and bivalent vaccines: Here's what you need to know

Members of public waiting in an observation area after they received the COVID-19 vaccination. (Photo: CNA/Marcus Mark Ramos)

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (Oct 7) announced that Singapore will transit from tracking the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses taken to an "up-to-date vaccination" definition regime.

Under the updated arrangement, MOH said everyone should keep up to date with the latest vaccination recommendations, such as three complete mRNA or Novavax doses or four Sinovac-CoronaVac doses for minimum protection.

Those aged 50 and above should also receive an additional booster dose between five months to one year from their last dose, to keep up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination, said MOH.

Besides the updated vaccination regime, the original Moderna/Spikevax vaccines will be replaced with the updated bivalent version.

Here is what you need to know about the updated recommendations: 

MINIMUM PROTECTION AGAINST COVID-19

Under the updated vaccination arrangement, MOH said all individuals should keep up to date with the latest recommendations and ensure they "achieve minimum protection". 

To achieve minimum protection against COVID-19, those aged five and above should complete three mRNA or Novavax/Nuvaxovid vaccine doses, or four doses of the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine. 

Individuals will be considered up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination if they have received the minimum protection, and if their last vaccine dose was received within the past year, said MOH. 

The arrangement is similar to Influenza vaccination, where individuals are advised to get their shots periodically so as to protect themselves against new strains of the endemic virus as they arise, the ministry added.  

ADDITIONAL BOOSTER FOR THOSE AGED 50 AND ABOVE

Those aged 50 and above who have achieved minimum protection should also receive an additional booster dose between five months to a year from their last jab in order to keep up to date with their vaccination. 

The updated bivalent COVID-19 vaccine is also recommended for this group, said the Health Ministry. 

From Oct 17, those in this age group as well as those who have yet to achieve minimum protection will be able to receive the updated bivalent vaccine under the National Vaccination Programme. 

(Image: Ministry of Health)

MODERNA/SPIKEVAX BIVALENT COVID-19 VACCINE 

MOH also announced that the current mRNA vaccines will be replaced by bivalent vaccines, as recommended by the expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination. 

The updated bivalent vaccines will provide better protection against newer COVID-19 variants, added MOH. 

In September, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) granted interim authorisation for the Spikevax Bivalent Original/Omicron COVID-19 jab by Moderna. The vaccine comprises two components that target the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and the Omicron BA.1 variant respectively. 

From Oct 17, the original Moderna/Spikevax vaccines will be replaced with the updated bivalent version for all vaccinations. This is for all adults aged 18 and above. 

Those aged 50 and above, or people who have yet to achieve minimum protection against COVID-19, are advised to opt for the bivalent vaccines as they are at higher risk of severe illness.

Individuals may walk into any Joint Testing and Vaccination Centre offering the Moderna/Spikevax jab from Oct 17 onwards to receive their dose. The various centres can be located via the VaccineGoWhere website.

PFIZER'S COMIRNATY BIVALENT BOOSTER

HSA also granted interim authorisation for Pfizer's Comirnaty bivalent booster vaccine on Oct 25.

It comprises two components - 15 micrograms targeting the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and 15 micrograms targeting the Omnicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants.

The Comirnaty bivalent vaccine is authorised for use as a booster shot for people aged 12 and above who have received primary series COVID-19 vaccination.

Children aged between five and 11 will also be able to receive the Comirnaty vaccine as a booster dose.

SINOVAC-CORONAVAC ALLOWED AS BOOSTER DOSE

There are people aged 18 and above who have been vaccinated with three doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac but have yet to receive a booster. 

MOH said that this was a cause for concern as the regime does not confer the minimum protection required.

According to the Health Ministry, local data has shown that compared to two doses of the mRNA vaccines, three doses of the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine does confer protection against severe disease. 

The three-dose Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine regime has an effectiveness of 70 per cent, compared to more than 80 per cent with three doses of mRNA vaccines. 

For better protection, MOH recommended those who have only received three doses of the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine to receive the updated Moderna/Spikevax bivalent vaccine, or alternatively, the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty or Novavax/Nuvaxovid vaccine. 

However, the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine will now also be allowed as a booster dose, without the need for proof of medical ineligibility to the mRNA or Novavax/Nuvaxovid vaccines, said the Health Ministry. 

This is "to encourage those who otherwise have not received a booster vaccination to minimally receive a booster dose". 

BOOKMARK THIS: Our comprehensive coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and its developments

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Source: CNA/lk/rc(zl)

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