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05 Apr 2021

5th Apr 2021

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms Foo Mee Har
MP for West Coast GRC

Question No. 818

To ask the Minister for Health whether there can be a standby queue at COVID-19 vaccination centres to allow interested members of the public to take the place of those who do not turn up for their scheduled vaccination.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Lim Biow Chuan
MP for Mountbatten

Question No. 833

To ask the Minister for Health whether the Ministry will reconsider its stand and to allow Singaporeans who are required to travel for work and studies to opt in to receive early COVID-19 vaccination since more vaccine supplies have arrived.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms Joan Pereira
MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC

Question No. 845

To ask the Minister for Health whether there is a hotline number for members of the public who have had their COVID-19 vaccinations to call if they have queries regarding post-vaccination symptoms and for clarifications and assurance.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms Foo Mee Har
MP for West Coast GRC

Question No. 859

To ask the Minister for Health whether staff and volunteers working in mosques can be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccination in preparation for conducting terawih and qiyamullail during the holy month of Ramadan.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Assoc Prof Jamus Jerome Lim 
MP for Sengkang GRC

Question No. 871

To ask the Minister for Health (a) to date, what proportion of persons aged (i) over-70 years (ii) 60–70 years and (iii) under 60 years have taken the COVID-19 vaccine; and (b) what measures are in place to increase the voluntary take-up of the vaccine.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms Sylvia Lim
MP for Aljunied GRC

Question No. 882

To ask the Minister for Health (a) what is the proportion of persons invited to make COVID-19 vaccination appointments who have been rejected due to them failing the pre-vaccination questionnaire; and (b) how is the Ministry adjusting its vaccination plans to minimise wastage of vaccines.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Abdul Samad
Nominated MP

Question No. 885

To ask the Minister for Health (a) what is the number of workers in the essential services sector who have gone through the COVID-19 vaccination; and (b) what are the criteria for the selection of workers.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Sharael Taha
Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC

Question No. 907

To ask the Minister for Health whether volunteers and staff at congregational and worship services can be considered as frontline staff and prioritised for COVID-19 vaccination.

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Murali Pillai
MP for Bukit Batok

Question No. 921

To ask the Minister for Health (a) whether he can provide an update on the COVID-19 vaccination programme; and (b) whether the Ministry intends to measure the antibody levels of persons (either as a class or individually) over time after they have been vaccinated to assess whether these persons retain immunity against the COVID-19 virus.

Oral Answer

1      Mr Speaker, may I please address Questions 1 to 9 from the Order Paper?  

Encouraging take-up of vaccinations

2     Sir, we would like to thank everyone for their support of our vaccination programme.  We will continue our efforts to encourage the take-up of the vaccine.  Vaccination is free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents. We have expanded the number of vaccination centres to 31 today and there will be a total of 40 vaccination centres islandwide by mid-April, so that individuals can be conveniently vaccinated near their home or their place of work.

Prioritisation framework

3 Our supply of vaccines remains limited by the ability of vaccine manufacturers to deliver, given the high levels of global demand. This has resulted in limited booking slots in recent days. I apologise for the inconvenience caused to those who have not been able to book earlier. As more supplies arrive, we will progressively open more slots.

4      We have had to prioritise our vaccinations, starting with our healthcare workers, vulnerable elderly, and those involved in COVID-19 operations. The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination had also recommended that we  prioritise those personnel whose job roles are of critical importance to the functioning of Singapore and are at higher risk of exposure to and onward transmission of COVID-19. This is critical to ensure that key sectors would be able to continue functioning effectively even during a local outbreak, and further reduce risks to our vulnerable populations and the community at large. Such personnel include those involved in safeguarding our borders and maintaining law and order, those involved in the provision of utilities such as water, energy and telecommunications services, workers who ensure the supply of essential food items, and land transport workers involved in ensuring that our transport services are kept running.

5      Religious workers might also face potential risks as they may engage in regular and non-transient contact with worshippers and devotees, including the elderly and vulnerable. Older religious workers, aged 45 and above, are already eligible for vaccination. Religious workers are also required to comply with safe management measures in the conduct of religious services and in other engagements with worshippers/devotees.  

Progress of vaccination programme

6      We continue to make steady progress with our vaccination programme. As of 3 April 2021, around 1.52 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered. Around 1.05 million individuals have received at least one dose of the vaccine, of which more than 468,000 individuals have received their second dose and completed the full vaccination regimen. 

7      To date, about 60% of eligible seniors aged 70 and above, and close to 70% of eligible seniors aged 60 to 69 have received the COVID-19 vaccination or booked their vaccination appointments.

8      We have recently invited citizens and residents aged 45 to 59 to begin to register for their vaccinations and close to 500,000, or about half, had done so. We are encouraged by this strong response. Those who have registered will progressively receive invitations through SMS to make their appointments for their vaccination. This may take some time given the number of people who have registered. To date, about 17% of eligible individuals have received the vaccination or booked their appointment and we expect the rest should receive the SMS by the middle of May and they can expect a booking slot by early June.

9      We thank everybody for their patience.

10     People under the age of 45 have also been patiently waiting for their turn. Based on the current schedule, we plan to begin inviting them in June to book their slots. If all goes well, we will complete the vaccination programme as scheduled by the end of the year.

Appeals channel

11     Some members of the public may wish to receive their vaccination early for a variety of reasons. Since 16 March, we have opened up an appeals channel for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents who need to travel overseas on compassionate grounds, for employment or study purposes. Applicants will need to meet certain criteria. These are listed on the website www.vaccine.gov.sg/appeal and they will need to submit sufficient documentation to support their appeal. We will prioritise appeals with earlier travel dates if they are able to complete the two-dose regimen prior to departure.

Reducing wastage

12     Close to 98% of those who booked appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations in the last 30 days have showed up for their appointments. We estimate that about 1% of those who turned up were rejected because of concerns about allergies and contraindications. We encourage everyone to be vaccinated when your turn comes, and to turn up at the vaccination appointments that you have made so that you do not deny another person of the opportunity.

13     However, such cases do not result in vaccine wastage. We closely monitor the vaccine appointment bookings and the historical take-up rate, and we deliver the appropriate number of vaccine doses to the vaccination sites. Unopened vials can be stored at the vaccination sites for at least 3 days. Vaccination site providers will start a new vial only when they have checked that there are individuals awaiting vaccination, to avoid vaccine wastage. At the end of the day, to utilise any balance remaining in a multi-dose vial and further minimise wastage, there are pre-planned lists of individuals who will be invited to be vaccinated. These could be staff who are working at the vaccination sites or frontline volunteers who have an active role in engaging seniors on vaccinations.

Post-vaccination

14     As with other established vaccines, people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine may experience common side effects, such as pain at the injection site, and fatigue. Should the side effects persist or get worse after a few days, they should see a doctor and seek medical attention. 

15     In very rare cases, the COVID-19 vaccine can cause a severe allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing, swelling of face, throat, eyes or lips, a fast heartbeat, dizziness and weakness, or a bad rash all over one’s body. In the event of a severe allergic reaction, please call 995 or visit the nearest hospital immediately. 

16     Members of the public can also visit the website www.vaccine.gov.sg or the MOH website to further understand the post-vaccination symptoms.

17     MOH will be conducting further studies to monitor and review the extent and duration of immunity provided by the COVID-19 vaccines. This includes collecting selected post-vaccination samples from groups such as healthcare workers, frontline staff and seniors, to monitor the persistence of antibodies up to 24 months. Currently, in line with international practices, there are no plans to test the serology of everyone who is vaccinated in Singapore. We will share more details about the studies once they are completed.

Conclusion

18     Vaccination is a key enabler to reduce the risk of community transmission and allow more economic and community activities to resume. As more vaccine stocks arrive, we will continue to expand our vaccination programme to more segments of the population, so that all Singaporeans and long-term residents in Singapore will have the chance to be vaccinated by end-2021.