EXTENSION OF COVID-19 VACCINATION TO MORE GROUPS OF SINGAPOREANS
Mr Murali Pillai asked the Minister for Health (a) whether his Ministry is minded to extend the COVID-19 vaccination programme to include prison inmates under the custody of the Singapore Prison Service; and (b) if so, what are the details of this plan.
Mr Ong Ye Kung: My answers will also cover questions filed by Dr Lim Wee Kiak and Mr Yip Hon Weng for future sittings.
We continue to make good progress with our national vaccination programme. As of 3 July, we have administered more than 5.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Around 3.5 million individuals, or about 63% of our population, have received at least the first dose of the vaccine. 2.1 million people have received their second dose.
Our rate of vaccination depends upon our vaccine supply. We have agreements to bring in more than enough vaccines for everyone in Singapore. We have been able to bring forward the delivery of some vaccine supplies, allowing us to accelerate our vaccination programme. Now we can administer up to 80,000 daily doses, up from around 40,000 in May 2021.
More COVID-19 vaccines are undergoing clinical trials. The Health Sciences Authority is reviewing the progress and other vaccines may be available in the future.
One trial in the United Kingdom is studying the combination of the AstraZeneca vaccine (an adenovirus vector vaccine) for the first dose, and an mRNA vaccine for the second dose. This is known as a heterologous prime-boost combination. We will monitor their findings to assess the suitability of using such a strategy.
All Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Long-Term Pass Holders aged 12 and above have now had the chance to register for their first doses. We have set ourselves an ambitious target to complete vaccination for two-thirds of the population by National Day.
We understand some seniors may be hesitant to take the vaccines for a variety of reasons. For example, concerns about potential side-effects, vaccine safety and efficacy, or they have difficulties with care arrangements, or do not see the need for it. We are working closely with stakeholders to encourage the take-up among seniors through outreach, education and engagement.
To make it more convenient for our seniors to get vaccinated, all Vaccination Centres in the community accept walk-ins for individuals aged 60 and above, without the need to register or book an appointment in advance. Seniors who are not mobile can request to be vaccinated at their homes by home vaccination teams.
The vaccination programme is now open to all Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Long-Term Pass Holders aged 12 and above, so everyone, including retail and delivery staff working at the frontlines, can book a vaccination appointment and choose from multiple time slots. Please do so as soon as possible. Singapore Prison Service have also extended the vaccination programme to prison inmates. Thus far, about 80% of eligible inmates have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
To date, there is no evidence to suggest that the Delta variant will adversely affect children more than adults. We are actively monitoring ongoing vaccine clinical trials conducted by pharmaceutical companies on children under 12 years old.
Achieving as high a level of vaccination coverage as possible in our population will help reduce the risks of community transmission and large outbreaks. It is a vital part of our strategy to deal with COVID-19 and to protect us all. If you are eligible to be vaccinated, please book an appointment today.