Singapore — The country’s overall Covid-19 vaccination strategy as recommended by an expert committee, including giving priority to healthcare workers and the elderly, has been accepted by the Government.

According to a Ministry of Health (MOH) press release on Sunday (Dec 27), the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination was set up in October 2020 to advise and assess the efficacy and safety of Covid-19 vaccines.

“It closely monitors the global vaccine landscape and recommendations by global authorities, makes detailed assessments of vaccine candidates for their safety, efficacy and suitability for the different segments of Singapore’s population based on the latest clinical data,” said the MOH.

The committee has assessed that the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is suitable for use by persons aged 16 and older.

In assessing the suitability of vaccine candidates for specific population groups, the  committee considered four key criteria: Vaccine safety, vaccine efficacy, vaccine tolerability, and data adequacy of clinical trials.

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The said vaccine has demonstrated a high vaccine efficacy rate of 95 per cent with a consistent safety profile.

In view of the limited supply of vaccines, the committee recommended that certain population groups receive vaccination priority, such as frontline workers and the elderly.

“Persons at high risk of being infected by Covid-19, including healthcare workers and workers at the frontline of our national Covid-19 response, will be prioritised,” said MOH.

“There is a duty to protect these workers who place themselves at higher risk of infection in the course of caring for our population, and to ensure the continued effective functioning of our healthcare system, and our national systems for preventing and containing epidemic spread.”

The vaccination exercise for healthcare workers is scheduled to begin on Wednesday (Dec 30).

Priority will also be given to persons most vulnerable to severe diseases and complications if they fall ill with the virus, including the elderly and persons with vascular medical comorbidities.

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The committee noted that Covid-19 patients aged 70 and older have worse health outcomes than those aged 60 to 69. “Where vaccine supply is limited, the Expert Committee recommends starting vaccinations of persons aged 70 years and above, followed by persons aged 60 to 69 years,” said MOH.

The schedule for vaccinations for the elderly is from February 2021.

Around 5 per cent of available vaccine stocks at any given point in time should be set aside for specific groups of persons who are of critical importance to the functioning of Singapore, the committee recommended. Examples include personnel involved in ensuring that the country’s water and utilities and other nationally-essential services are not disrupted.

This is “to ensure that Singapore would be able to continue to function effectively amidst a local outbreak situation”, said MOH.

According to the committee’s chairman, Assistant Professor Benjamin Ong: “It is important that we achieve as comprehensive a coverage of Covid-19 vaccination as possible across the entire population.

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“The committee has made our recommendations after careful assessment and deliberation of the available clinical data. While Singapore currently has a low rate of local transmission of Covid-19, we remain vulnerable to the threat of a surge in cases.” /TISG

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ByHana O