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Covid-19 vaccine booster shots will be rolled out to the elderly and immunocompromised from September 14. Here’s what you need to know

This story was first published on July 9, 2021, and updated on September 13, 2021.

On September 10, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that seniors aged 60 and above as well as residents of aged-care facilities will be invited to receive Covid-19 vaccine booster shots from September 14.

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The booster doses will only be for mRNA vaccines that have been authorised under the Health Science’s Authority’s Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR). These vaccines are Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

To be eligible, seniors and aged-care facility residents should have completed their two-dose vaccination regimen at least six months ago. 

There are currently about 900,000 seniors aged 60 and above who are eligible for these booster shots according to Health Minister Ong Ye Kung at a Covid-19 multi-ministerial task force press conference on September 10.  

“We will be sending out some 200,000 SMSes to those who took their second shots in March this year or earlier to make an appointment for their booster shots,” he said.

Those eligible will receive a text message with a personalised booking link for them to book a new appointment, according to MOH. 

MOH is also encouraging individuals who are moderate to severely immunocompromised and who have been fully vaccinated to get a booster shot two months after their second dose. 

“However, they should consult their treating specialist, who would have the best understanding of their medical condition, prior to receiving their third dose,” said MOH. 

Eligible individuals can get their shots from September 15. 

See also: Covid-19 Singapore: What You Can and Can’t Do

This comes after MOH and the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination reviewed all available evidence and studied the safety and efficacy of the booster shots that have been administered globally. 

MOH explained that since seniors are at a higher risk of a severe form of the Covid-19 infection and may develop a lower immune response from their two-dose vaccination regimen, they should be the first to get booster shots. This is coupled with the fact that most seniors were vaccinated much earlier in the year. 

Currently, it is recommended that individuals get a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine about six to nine months after they complete the second of their two doses. 

This is to “ensure higher levels of protection from infection and continued high levels of protection against severe disease, and reduce the possibility of spikes in infections and more people falling severely ill”, said MOH.

For the rest of the population, you might be wondering when and if you will actually need a booster shot. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know.

See also: Covid-19 May Eventually Become Endemic—Here’s What it Means

Why do I need a booster shot?

Currently, Pfizer and Moderna have said people may need a third dose after a few months or even a periodic booster shot in order to maintain their immunity. 

This is because the virus has been mutating, which means that booster shots that have been updated with protection against the new variants are important. You can think of it much like how our regular flu vaccines are constantly being updated. 

Additionally, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on September 3 that with the new variants, there have been more breakthrough infections despite vaccinations and that the strength of the protection can decrease over time as the antibodies wear off.

How will we know if this is needed for the rest of the population?

It is first necessary to determine how long the antibodies against Covid-19 will last when an individual is vaccinated. This is in addition to finding out how well these memory cells are able to be preserved in our bodies. 

This will give us a good indication as to when there is a need to boost someone’s immunity. 

Right now, the government is operating on the information that it has available. Of course, this is also dependent on any new variants that may emerge and what their impact may be.

See also: Covid-19 Singapore: Here’s How Dining-In Will Work From August 10 

Will everyone need a booster shot?

Currently, the priority in Singapore and around the world is to get as many people as possible vaccinated. Singapore announced on September 4 that 81 per cent of the population has already been fully vaccinated. 

This means that booster shots are not a priority right now for most people. Only seniors and the immunocompromised are those that really need it at this point.

Furthermore, since it is recommended that individuals should get a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine about six to nine months after they complete the second of their two doses, the majority of the population are not yet eligible.

Will I still be considered vaccinated if I do not take a booster shot?

As long as you have completed both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and waited two weeks for it to become effective, you will be considered fully vaccinated despite the booster shots, said Mr Ong. 

Will I be told when I am eligible?

As the government begins to roll out booster shots this month, we will get more information on when they will be available for the majority of the population.

For now, only seniors aged 60 and above and residents of aged-care facilities can book their slots from September 14.

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