Singapore lifts all vaccination-differentiated safe management measures

Singapore lifts all vaccination-differentiated safe management measures

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This means events with more than 500 participants, and dining in at F&B establishments will no longer be linked to an individual's vaccination status.

Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) has lifted all vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS), effective 10 October 2022 (Monday). 

This means VDS will no longer be required for:

  1. Events with more than 500 participants at any one time,
  2. Nightlife establishments where dancing among patrons is one of the intended activities, and
  3. Dining in at F&B establishments, including hawker centres.

However, even as VDS are lifted, non-fully vaccinated persons continue to face a higher risk of severe disease. As such, MOH urged such persons to come forward to be vaccinated, or continue to take their own precautions and minimise social interactions to protect themselves.

At the same time, MOM further clarified that should the situation worsen, it may need to put in place necessary measures at short notice to protect the public. This may include implementing an appropriate level of VDS, as was necessary during the height of the pandemic.

This lifting of VDS follows the prior relaxation of COVID-19 protocols which took effect on 29 August 2022, when MOH stepped down almost all of its safe management measures (SMMs), save for mask-wearing in healthcare facilities and public transport. 

Vaccination for children

Amongst the other updates announced, MOH will be rolling out the following measures from 25 October 2022 to ensure that children attain a minimum level of protection and remain up-to-date with their vaccinations:

  1. Children aged six months to four years to receive their primary vaccination with Moderna/Spikevax vaccine; and
  2. Children aged five to 11 years to receive a booster dose with Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine.

Following the Health Sciences Authority’s (HSA) authorisation of the Moderna/Spikevax vaccine for use in children aged six months to five years, the expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination (EC19V) recommends the vaccine for primary vaccination for this age group, which MOH has accepted. The recommended dosage of the Moderna/Spikevax vaccine for this age group is two doses of 25mg each, spaced eight weeks apart. The vaccine from Pfizer BioNTech/Comirnaty, which is a three-dose vaccine for children aged six months to four years, has also been approved and is awaiting delivery by end-2022.

Vaccinations for children aged six months to four years will begin on 25 October. From 18 October 2022, parents or guardians of children in this age group may register their interest for their child or ward to receive the Moderna/Spikevax vaccination here. Meanwhile, children aged five years will follow the vaccination programme for those aged five to 11 years old, which is already in place.

Children receiving other non-COVID-19 vaccines are recommended to receive their COVID-19 vaccine at a minimum interval of 14 days before or after any other vaccines.

Similarly, MOH has also accepted the EC19V’s recommendation for children aged five to 11 years to receive a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine, which is so far the only COVID-19 vaccine recommended for this age group.

Next, MOH announced that booster vaccinations for children aged five to 11 years will begin on 25 October, and parents or guardians of eligible children in this age group will receive an SMS notification to book their child or ward’s Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty booster dose via the personalised booking link provided.

To facilitate vaccination for children, five designated vaccination centres offering the abovementioned Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty for those aged five to 11 years, and Moderna/Spikevax vaccines for those aged six months to four years, will begin operations from 25 October onwards. They are located at:

  • One Punggol;
  • Our Tampines Hub;
  • Queenstown Community Centre;
  • Sembawang Community Club; and
  • Taman Jurong Community Club.

MOH will also deploy mobile vaccination teams to provide the primary series and booster vaccinations for children aged five to 11 years in Special Education schools and the Early Childhood Development Agency-funded Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children centres. 

Defining up-to-date vaccination and bivalent vaccines

MOH will transition from tracking the number of doses individuals have taken, to an “up-to-date vaccination” definition regime. Under this arrangement, everyone should keep up-to-date with the latest vaccination recommendations. Individuals are advised to adhere to the following two key recommendations, namely:

  1. Individuals should ensure that they achieve minimum protection. Persons aged five years and above should complete three mRNA or Novavax/Nuvaxovid doses, or four Sinovac-CoronaVac doses, to achieve minimum protection.
  2. After achieving minimum protection, persons aged 50 years and above should 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. The updated bivalent vaccine is recommended for this. Individuals will be considered up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccination if they have received at least the minimum protection and their last vaccine dose was received within the past year.

For clarity, the requirements, as shared by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, are summarised below:

screenshot 2022 10 10 093901

Following the EC19V's recommendation of the use of a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine to replace the current formulation, MOH will be replacing the original Moderna/Spikevax vaccines with the updated bivalent version from 17 October 2022 for all vaccinations using the Moderna/Spikevax vaccine. This will apply to all adults aged 18 years and above.

Hence, for persons aged 50 and above, or for persons yet to achieve minimum protection, as they are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 infection, MOH states that they should take the bivalent vaccines.

Persons aged 50 and above, or those yet to achieve minimum protection, may walk into any joint testing and vaccination centres offering the Moderna/Spikevax vaccines from 17 October 2022 onwards to receive their bivalent vaccine dose.

Following this announcement, Minister of Health Ong Ye Kung has further clarified any queries regarding the updated measures in a Facebook post.

Minister Ong assured the public on the safety of the updated bivalent vaccine: "Clinical studies show it has the same safety profile as the original Moderna/Spikevax mRNA vaccine, which has been administered over 3mn times locally. Serious adverse events (SAEs) have been reported in about six in 100,000 vaccinations of the original formulation, and all have recovered or are recovering. HSA has also reported a declining rate of SAEs with further shots (i.e., even fewer have adverse reactions after taking boosters compared to taking primary series)."

He also assured that vaccination for children aged six months to five years with the Moderna/Spikevax vaccine is safe. Common side effects (such as injection site pain, fatigue, headache) were observed less commonly than in adults and subsided within two to three days. SAEs are rare, with no cases of anaphylaxis or pericarditis/myocarditis observed in the clinical trial. 

Overall, Minister Ong affirmed that vaccination has become Singapore's primary defence against the virus.

Lead image / Shutterstock

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