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Singapore

Children aged 12 to 17 must get COVID-19 booster within 270 days of 2nd dose to maintain fully vaccinated status

Children aged 12 to 17 must get COVID-19 booster within 270 days of 2nd dose to maintain fully vaccinated status
A child in Singapore getting a COVID-19 vaccine shot. (File photo: Facebook/Chan Chun Sing)

SINGAPORE: From March 14, those aged between 12 and 17 will need to get a booster shot within 270 days of receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, in order to maintain their fully vaccinated status, announced the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (Jan 21). 

The extension of the booster programme to this age group comes on the recommendations of the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination (EC19V), MOH added.

Currently, only those aged 18 years and above are offered a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine, under the National Vaccination Programme, five months after completing their primary vaccination series.

This group will be required 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 from Feb 14.

In a news release on Friday, MOH said that the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme will be progressively extended to those aged between 12 and 17 from early February.

It will start with those who are 16 or 17 years old, followed by those aged between 12 and 15.

"Vaccinations, especially boosters, will ensure we retain substantial protection against Omicron," said MOH.

"Boosters have helped dampen the rise in Omicron cases thus far and increases our protection against infection and severe illness."

SAFETY CONCERNS

At a press conference by the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce on Friday, MOH’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak addressed safety concerns over booster shots for this age group.

"The experience in Israel, the US and the UK has shown that adolescents are as vulnerable to breakthrough infections following vaccination, as in adults. But the booster vaccinations have been shown to increase the protection back against the Omicron variant," he said.

"Local and international data has shown that the safety profile and side effects for the booster dose is compatible with that for the first two doses and with a significantly lower myocarditis risk," he added.

Asked if a booster shot would eventually be required for children under 12 years old, Assoc Prof Mak said that "there are no plans at this stage".

"We will monitor the situation closely to see if, as in other age groups, the vaccine protection wanes over time, and whether it leads to an increased vulnerability to breakthrough infections arising particularly in the setting of other viral variants that may emerge in the future," he added.

"And at that point in time, we will make recommendations guided by EC19V on whether booster vaccinations are then required for this age group, as in the other age groups."

GOING FOR VACCINATION

Parents or guardians of children aged 12 to 17 will receive an SMS with a personalised booking link to the mobile number that they had registered with for the primary series, to provide consent and book their child's booster vaccination appointment.

The children will be able to receive their booster shot at any vaccination centre offering the PfizerBioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine.

Similar to the primary series vaccination, only children aged 12 and as well as students in Special Education (SPED) schools will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian on the day of vaccination. Those aged 13 and above do not need to be accompanied.

Those aged between 12 and 17 who are medically ineligible for the PfizerBioNTech/ Comirnaty vaccine will be offered a Sinovac-CoronaVac booster dose under a dedicated public health programme, said MOH.

This programme will also be extended to children aged 5 to 11 years who are medically ineligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech/ Comirnaty vaccine for their primary vaccination series.

"Participants in the public health programme will be closely monitored by trained medical personnel," said MOH, adding that it will contact eligible persons with detailed instructions.

FINDINGS FROM CHILDREN'S STUDY

An interim analysis of KK Women and Children’s Hospital's COVID-19 vaccination study of 150 children aged between 5 and 11 showed that all of them developed high antibody levels following two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine, said MOH.

The analysis looked at 50 children who had received paediatric doses of the vaccine.

MOH said the rates of adverse reactions after vaccination were lower than in adolescents, with none requiring medical review or hospitalisation to date.

"With these positive findings locally, we encourage all children aged 5 to 11 years to come forward to be vaccinated," it said.

GET BOOSTER SHOTS TO MAINTAIN VACCINATION STATUS 

MOH reminded those aged 12 years and above who have been offered the booster dose not to delay their shots beyond nine months of receiving their last dose of their primary vaccination series.

It added that the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine should only be used as a booster by people "medically contraindicated" to receive the mRNA vaccines.

"Persons who had received two or more doses of the Sinovac-CoronaVac or Sinopharm vaccines as part of a three-dose primary vaccination series are strongly recommended to receive one dose of an mRNA vaccine as a booster," said MOH.

Those who had received an mRNA vaccine as the third dose of their three-dose primary series should receive their booster around five months thereafter, it said. 

As for those who received the Sinovac-CoronaVac or Sinopharm vaccine for all three doses, MOH said they should receive their booster at three months thereafter, due to "lower antibody levels generated by the third vaccine dose".

Meanwhile, people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have completed their primary series vaccination will not be required to have an additional booster dose "at this point in time", said MOH.

It said this group will continue to be considered fully vaccinated after Feb 14, but added that it is safe for them to receive a booster dose from five months after their last dose.

"Our vaccination centres will not turn away such individuals," said MOH.

"We strongly encourage all those who are eligible to receive booster doses to take them as soon as possible. This will help to keep you and your loved ones safe," it said. 

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Source: CNA/vl(gr)

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