There is no evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine contributes to an increased risk of death among the elderly, said Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary in Parliament on Monday (1 February).
Responding to questions from several Members of Parliament (MPs) today, Dr Janil said that the Health Ministry, the Health Sciences Authority and the expert committee for COVID-19 vaccination have been monitoring international reports on vaccine-related adverse events and deaths in the elderly.
“The Norwegian health authorities and the World Health Organisation’s global advisory committee on vaccine safety have found no evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine contributes to an increased risk of death in the elderly.
“Thus, we continue to offer COVID-19 vaccinations for our seniors,” he said.
Vaccination providers have been informed by the authorities that doctors should review the elderly recipients’ medical history beforehand to confirm their suitability for vaccinations and that they must be monitored closely in the “immediate period” after getting the vaccine.
Dr Janil revealed that more than 155,000 individuals have received their first dose of the vaccine as of Sunday (31 January).
More vaccination centres will be set up in places with a large population and along public transport routes, he added.
“In total, we are planning to set up around 40 vaccination centres with each vaccination centre planned for an estimated capacity of about 2,000 vaccinations per day on average,” said Dr Janil.
Additionally, polyclinic and selected public health preparedness clinics will also serve as vaccination sites, with all 20 polyclinics in Singapore to begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations starting today, he noted.
Dr Janil also noted that the mobile vaccination teams have been set up for seniors with more serious mobility issues.
“All seniors will receive personalized letters inviting them to make an appointment for their vaccinations. They will also be able to make appointments online or they can visit selected community centres near to them to book an appointment in person,” he said.
Vaccinations cannot be provided to S’poreans who wish to travel overseas for personal reasons
Aside from the elderly, healthcare workers and COVID-19 frontline personnel –- whose work requires them to be in constant contact with people who may be infected with the virus –- have been prioritised due to the limited supplies of the vaccine.
Dr Janil emphasised that because of that, for the time being, vaccinations cannot be provided to those who wish to travel overseas for personal reasons or would like to get vaccinated early.
“We completely understand the anxiety of Singaporeans who wish to travel overseas for personal reasons or would like to get vaccinated early.
“At this point when vaccine supplies are limited, we do need to prioritize our healthcare and front line workers and seniors for vaccination,” he said.
Dr Janil noted that essential workers such as those in security services, aviation and maritime workers have also been vaccinated.
“We seek everyone’s patience and support as we progressively roll out the vaccinations to the whole population in tandem with the shipments of the vaccines,” said the Minister.
While the Government has signed advances purchased agreements with Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Sinovac, Dr Janil hinted that discussions are currently ongoing with a few other pharmaceutical companies.
“Due to commercial sensitivities and confidentiality undertakings in our advance purchase agreements, we cannot disclose the specific quantity of vaccines ordered or the delivery schedules,” he told the House.
Though there would be delays to shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines due to an upgrading of Pfizer’s manufacturing plant, Dr Janil reassured that supplies will be monitored closely to meet the target of vaccinating all Singaporeans and long-term residents by the end of this year.