Singapore is studying if it should change its Covid-19 vaccination strategy so as to allow more people to get protection from a first dose, said newly appointed Singapore Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on May 16. 

This will mean extending the time between administering each vaccine shot. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is administered 21 days apart, while the Moderna vaccine is administered 28 days apart. 

Speaking at a press conference of Singapore’s multi-ministerial task force, Ong revealed that experts are studying if Singapore should give one dose of the vaccine to as many people as possible first, and delay the second dose. 

This will take effect in the “second phase” of Singapore’s vaccination programme, as it nears the end of the first phase, which focused on groups that “those who needed it most”.These groups include seniors, frontline healthcare workers, and essential workers. 

As of May 16, Ong highlighted that one-quarter of the Singapore population today are fully vaccinated, while one-third has at least one dose.

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He cited international studies from around the world that said even with one dose, the vaccine provides “good protection” and added that “evidence, locally and overseas point towards this… that it is reasonable for those two [doses] actually to be further apart. So instead of 21, or 28 days which is the case, currently, you can possibly extend to six to eight weeks without materially impacting the efficacy of the vaccine.”

However, he reassured that for those who have booked their second vaccination appointment, they will not be affected.

When asked if this was in response to a tight vaccine supply, Ong explained that there was a constraint in the speed of vaccination due to the pace of vaccine arrivals in Singapore. 

He revealed that the level of vaccines in Singapore’s inventory goes up and down based on the arrivals, but they will be “enough to cover our population.” In December 2020, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore will have enough vaccines for everyone in Singapore by the third quarter of this year, “if all goes according to plan.”

“Our vaccination exercise is still pretty much aligned in tandem with the arrival of supplies, if we have a lot of supplies, of course, we will do it faster, but we will need to administer doses based on the arrival of the supplies.” Ong highlighted.

Singapore currently has 40 vaccination centres, each with a capacity of about 2,000 jabs a day. 

He said Singapore’s health authorities are also evaluating the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for younger age groups after it was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for children 12 to 15 years old.

At the same press conference, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing added that the education and health ministries are also working out plans to vaccinate students under the age of 16 once approval is given in Singapore.

“In the overall review of the vaccination plan for the remaining of our population, we will take into account the prioritization for this group of people with the rest of the other age groups that may not have been vaccinated, yet.” Chan highlighted.