Ho Ching on booster shots for the young, “We can afford to wait a bit more”

© The Independent Singapore

Singapore — Madam Ho Ching weighed in on the issue of Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, writing that in the case of younger people, especially frontline workers, “wait till end of this year or first half next year.”

This is because for young people who are healthy, “their immune response from their 1st 2 doses would trigger a higher and more robust response than for folks above 60 years old,” the chief executive officer of Temasek Holdings and wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday (Sept 5).

It was announced on Friday (Sept 3) that Covid-19 vaccine booster shots will begin to be given to older people in Singapore, as well as to those who have weakened immune systems.

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force assigned to combat the pandemic, said that the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Expert Committee on COVID-19 have evaluated the necessity of the booster shot.

Upon the recommendation of the committee, the MOH agreed to begin a booster programme for residents of aged care facilities, moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals, and to people aged 60 and above.

This is a decision made as a “preemptive step before antibodies wane further,” said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Mdm Ho wrote that some people asked about booster shots for younger frontliners who received their full vaccination shots earlier this year.

For them, she wrote, the “Short answer is yes, but wait till end of this year or first half next year.”

And since younger people have a higher baseline for antibodies, it could take longer for these levels to decrease below the level needed to protect them from infection, she added.

Mdm Ho also wrote that “with a more robust immune response, chances are that we could also activate more of the longer lasting cellular defence system like the T cells and B cells.”

And for people from the age of 60, it is expected that they would need a booster “at the lower end of the 6-9 months range, compared to younger folks.”

She added that emerging studies show that after the third Covid vaccine shot, or the booster, antibody levels could go back to “the outstanding 95%, even for Delta.”

“In other words, they help protect better even for the Delta,” Mdm Ho wrote.

As for younger people “we can afford to wait a bit,” she wrote, “unless they have other underlying issues which weakens their immune system.”

And if people are unsure of their antibody levels, they can have this tested, but “on average, the younger folks should wait a while more.”

Mdm Ho added that one of the reasons for young people to wait is that they’ve had, “on average more side effects than older people” and therefore “we would ideally want to wait for more data on side effects as we can on balance afford to do so.”

“For instance, even for rare side effects like triggering mild inflammation of the heart muscles or membrane, we know younger people in their teens and perhaps up to age 30, are more likely to experience this,” she added.

Mdm Ho mentioned that while waiting on administering booster shots to all age groups, Singapore can also “consider opening trials for ourselves to check out the effect of mixing vaccines.” /TISG

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