1. The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination (EC19V) recommends that seniors aged 60 years and above, and medically vulnerable persons who have not yet received the updated bivalent vaccine booster to do so at around one year after their last booster dose. They can start to receive it from five months after their last booster dose. Those who have not even completed doses required for minimum protection are urged to do so as soon as they can.
COVID-19 Causes Severe Disease Especially in Seniors and Medically Vulnerable
2. There has been a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, resulting in more hospitalisations in Singapore. COVID-19 infection can trigger a worsening of existing conditions and result in severe infection or breathing difficulties, especially in seniors and medically vulnerable persons, particularly in those who have not yet received the updated COVID-19 bivalent vaccine.
3. EC19V notes with concern that hospitalised COVID-19 patients were more likely to NOT be updated with their COVID-19 vaccinations and had not yet received a bivalent vaccine dose, while a substantial number had not completed vaccinations even for minimum protection. These hospital admissions could potentially have been prevented by vaccination.
Vaccination Continues to Be Crucial in Preventing Severe Disease
4. Vaccination is essential to achieve a good level of protection against COVID-19 severe disease, especially among seniors aged 60 years and above who are significantly more likely to require medical care and hospital admission should they fall ill with COVID-19. EC19V continues to urge every senior and medically vulnerable person to have minimum protection at the very least and achieve optimal protection by being updated with the bivalent vaccines.
5. The minimum protection continues to be sustained against severe disease for more than one year after it is achieved. Nevertheless, because the COVID-19 virus causing the recent surge are Omicron variants, the bivalent vaccine boosters provide better protection against these virus variants circulating in Singapore and overseas. Seniors and medically vulnerable persons get the greatest benefit from the bivalent booster dose, which further reduces their risk of hospitalisation and severe disease from COVID-19.
Benefits of Vaccination Outweighs the Risks
6. By now, over 17 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Singapore, and more than 13 billion doses administered around the world. Like any other medication or vaccine, COVID-19 vaccines carry some risks, but the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination far outweigh the risks, and the most common side effects are mild and resolve completely. The risk of serious side effects from vaccination is very low, about 7 in 100,000 persons locally, and is even lower with the bivalent mRNA boosters. In contrast, the risks of severe illness from COVID-19, including breathing difficulties and even death, can be as high as around 7 in 100 persons among unvaccinated seniors. Even among unvaccinated adults aged younger than 60 years, the risk of severe COVID-19 can be 2 in 1000. Vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness by more than 80%.
Seniors and Medically Vulnerable Persons Should Receive the Updated Bivalent Booster Vaccine
7. EC19V strongly urges all eligible persons, especially seniors aged 60 years and above, and medically vulnerable persons, to get updated with the bivalent mRNA vaccine.
8. All eligible persons should get vaccinated for minimum protection. Minimum protection for adults consists of three doses of the mRNA vaccines or Novavax/Nuvaxovid, or four doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac.
9. Persons aged 60 years and above, and medically vulnerable persons, who have attained minimum protection should receive in 2023, one booster dose of the updated bivalent vaccine at around one year after their last booster dose. They can start to receive it from five months after their last booster dose.
10. The protection from the 2023 bivalent booster dose will reduce the risk of severe disease, worsening of their underlying medical conditions and hospitalisation, particularly during the COVID-19 surge locally and in the region.
EXPERT COMMITTEE ON COVID-19 VACCINATION
22 MAY 2023