Singapore all set to vaccinate children aged 12 to 15 against COVID-19
Singapore, May 18: Singapore has decided to vaccinate students aged 12 to 15 following a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in schools in the city-state, local media reported on Tuesday.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that those aged 12 to 15 are to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech injection. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was previously given only to those aged 16 years and above.
Ong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19, said that the Health Sciences Authority's (HSA) decision was supported by the expert committee on COVID-19 vaccines.
"Both teams (expert committee and HSA) have assessed that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine demonstrated high efficacy and safety for this age group," Ong said at a virtual press conference. The Ministry of Education (MOE) would work with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to plan the vaccination programme for this age group, more details on which would be provided soon.
The announcement comes at a time when a number of schoolchildren have tested positive for the deadly virus. Also at the press conference, MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said more children have been infected with COVID-19 this year compared with 2020. Mak said that children are less vigilant and disciplined when following safe measures.
Vaccination, he noted, could protect not just children but also the adults around them. But he added that the authorities have not yet decided whether to prioritise vaccinations for children, and that this decision would be made at a later date.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong noted that Singapore has multiple tracks in its vaccination programme, including one that focuses on those in the education sector - teachers, staff and students.
Wong, a co-chairman of the task force, said that teachers have already been vaccinated along with students in university hostels. These students were offered the shot due to the communal setting they live in, which poses a higher risk of infection. "So both MOH and MOE will be now looking at vaccination as a next step under the education track for schoolgoing children, and we will update in due course," said Wong.
Addressing any potential concerns parents might have about the safety of their children, Mak said that the vaccine is not only safe for those aged 12 to 15, but it is also as effective as it would be for adults.
Meanwhile, all schools will start full home-based learning (HBL) from Wednesday until May 28 when the school term ends, amid a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases. This applies to all primary, secondary and junior college students, as well as those from Millennia Institute and special education schools.
The Government is also ramping up its COVID-19 vaccination programme by starting registration for people aged 40 to 44, and deploying doctors and nurses to homes to help those who are homebound or not mobile to receive their jabs. From Wednesday, residents aged between 40 and 44 can register themselves to get their COVID-19 vaccine jabs, MOH said on Tuesday.
As of May 17, the Government has administered more than 3.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Close to two million people have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, of whom more than 1.4 million people have received their second dose and completed their vaccination.
"If all goes smoothly, 4.7 million individuals will be covered by at least one dose of vaccination by August (and) this will substantively cover almost all our eligible population," Ong said. Singapore's population is estimated at 5.9 million.