Seniors, young families among those who get updated Covid-19 vaccine on first weekend of roll-out
On Saturday morning, Jaden Tan, five, received his first Covid-19 jab, and it was the latest monovalent version that promises to protect against current and emerging strains.
Jaden and his three-year-old brother were due to be vaccinated in late 2022, but they caught the infection then and their parents decided to postpone their inoculation by a year.
Accompanying them at the Ang Mo Kio joint testing and vaccination centre (JTVC) was their godmother and family friend, Ms S.Y. Zhang.
Ms Zhang, who declined to reveal her full name, said: “We saw the news about the new vaccine and since we are going overseas at the end of the year – and the boys feel well – we decided to take them for their vaccination.”
The reformulated Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine – created to target the Omicron XBB.1.5 strain that was globally dominant in early 2023 – was rolled out from Oct 30.
The majority of the globally circulating strains now are part of the broader XBB.1.5 family, according to international genomics database Gisaid.
On most Saturdays before end-October at Ang Mo Kio JTVC, there would be about 50 people getting vaccinated. But by 11am on Saturday, 100 people were at the centre for their jabs.
Since Oct 30, Kaki Bukit JTVC had seen a 15 per cent to 20 per cent rise in footfall, with more coming forward to take the updated vaccine, said a Fullerton Health spokesman. An appointment for the jab is no longer necessary.
Like Ms Zhang, other parents and guardians who took their children for vaccination on Saturday did so to prepare for overseas travel as the year-end school holidays are around the corner.
Ms C.Y. Tan, a civil servant in her early 50s, who has not been infected, received her seventh Covid-19 shot on Saturday.
“My husband and I have been very faithful in coming for every vaccination,” said Ms Tan, who lives near Marine Drive.
“And as a grassroots leader, I want to be a role model for elderly residents in my neighbourhood and encourage them to get their jabs.”
About half of the individuals who received their jabs at each centre were in their 50s or older, and had gone to get updated on their yearly booster shots.
Retired IT professional Paul Ng, 68, took the monovalent vaccine on Saturday at Ang Mo Kio JTVC as he will be flying to Australia soon to visit his sister, who told him that Covid-19 cases are expected to rise there in December.
Among the younger adults getting their jabs on Saturday were foreign employees who were required by their companies in Singapore to take their first booster dose before starting work.
The additional shot is recommended for those at greatest risk of severe disease, including those aged 60 and above, medically vulnerable individuals and residents of aged-care facilities, the Ministry of Health said on Oct 28.
Nov 4 was also the first Saturday in several months that the JTVCs were open for a full day, in anticipation of higher footfall with the roll-out of the monovalent vaccines.
Until Dec 2, the operating hours of all JTVCs will be extended on Saturdays, from 9am to 7pm.
To avoid queues, Ang Mo Kio JTVC has set up more registration counters and expanded its waiting areas to prepare for up to 2,000 visitors a day, up from 500 a week ago, said a centre employee.
By Nov 20, the updated vaccines will replace all other types of Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty and Moderna/Spikevax vaccines.
The currently available monovalent vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty is available for all individuals aged five and above.
The roll-out of two other types of monovalent vaccines – depending on the expected arrival of the shipments – will be on the following dates:
- Nov 14 – Moderna/Spikevax for all individuals aged six months and above
- Nov 20 – Pfizer-BioNTech/ Comirnaty for children aged six months to four years
People can get their vaccinations at any JTVC, Public Health Preparedness Clinic, or polyclinic offering the vaccine.
The mutated versions of the Omicron variant, including EG.5, XBB.1.5 and XBB.1.6, are circulating among the community.
Between Oct 22 and Oct 28, there were 16,062 reported Covid-19 cases, down from 17,123 cases the previous week.