SINGAPORE - People who are 60 and older and those who are medically vulnerable and have not yet received the updated bivalent vaccine booster are advised to do so about a year after their last booster shot.

Seniors can start getting the booster dose five months or more after their last dose.

Those who have not even completed the doses needed for minimum protection are urged to do so as soon as they can, said the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination.

In a statement on Monday, the committee said there has been a surge in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks that has resulted in more hospitalisations. It added that hospitalised Covid-19 patients were more likely to not be up to date with their Covid-19 vaccinations, and not have received their bivalent vaccine dose.

A substantial number of those hospitalised with Covid-19 had not received vaccinations for minimum protection, it said.

To ensure minimum protection, the committee recommends that all eligible people receive at least either three doses of the mRNA vaccines or Novavax, or four doses of the Sinovac-CoronaVac.

As the recent surge in Covid-19 cases is due to the Omicron variants, the bivalent vaccine boosters provide better protection against the variants circulating in Singapore and overseas, said the committee.

It said: “Vaccination is essential to achieve a good level of protection against Covid-19 severe disease, especially among seniors aged 60 years and above who are significantly more likely to require medical care and hospital admission should they fall ill with Covid-19.

“The Expert Committee continues to urge every senior and medically vulnerable person to have minimum protection at the very least and achieve optimal protection by being updated with the bivalent vaccines.”

More than 17 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in Singapore, and more than 13 billion doses have been administered around the world, the committee said.

The benefits of Covid-19 vaccination far outweigh the risks, it said. It added that the risks of serious side effects from Covid-19 vaccinations is about 7 in 100,000 persons locally, and the numbers are lower with bivalent mRNA boosters.

The Expert Committee said: “In contrast, the risks of severe illness from Covid-19, including breathing difficulties and even death, can be as high as around 7 in 100 persons among unvaccinated seniors.

“Even among unvaccinated adults aged younger than 60 years, the risk of severe Covid-19 can be 2 in 1000. Vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness by more than 80 per cent.”

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