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A health care worker takes a nose swab for a coronavirus test in Singapore, which has seen a recent surge in cases. Photo: Reuters

In Singapore, vaccinated people made up three-quarters of recent Covid-19 cases, but few fell ill

  • Data showed that of the 1,096 cases in the last month, 44 per cent were fully vaccinated and 30 per cent partially vaccinated – but none were hospitalised
  • ‘There is continuing evidence that vaccination helps to prevent serious disease when one gets infected,’ the health ministry said
Vaccinated individuals accounted for three-quarters of Singapore’s Covid-19 infections in the last four weeks, but they were not falling seriously ill, government data showed, as a rapid ramp-up in inoculations leaves fewer people unvaccinated.

While the data shows that vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe cases, it also underscores the risk that even those inoculated could be contagious, so that inoculation alone may not suffice to halt transmission.

Of Singapore’s 1,096 locally transmitted infections in the last 28 days, 484, or about 44 per cent, were in fully vaccinated people, while 30 per cent were partially vaccinated and just over 25 per cent were unvaccinated.

While seven cases of serious illness required oxygen, and another was in critical condition in intensive care, none of the eight had been fully vaccinated, the health ministry said.

“There is continuing evidence that vaccination helps to prevent serious disease when one gets infected,” the ministry said, adding that all the fully vaccinated and infected people had shown no symptoms, or only mild ones.

Frustration as Singapore is ‘caught in transition’ to living with Covid-19

Infections in vaccinated people do not mean vaccines are ineffective, experts said.

“As more and more people are vaccinated in Singapore, we will see more infections happening among vaccinated people,” Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

“It is important to always compare it against the proportion of people who remain unvaccinated … Suppose Singapore achieves a rate of 100 per cent fully vaccinated … then all infections will stem from the vaccinated people and none from the unvaccinated.”

A man walks past buildings in the financial district in Singapore. Photo: EPA-EFE

Singapore has already inoculated nearly 75 per cent of its 5.7 million people, the world’s second highest after the United Arab Emirates, and half its population is fully vaccinated.

As countries with advanced vaccination campaigns prepare to live with Covid-19 as an endemic disease, their focus is turning to preventing death and serious diseases through vaccination.

But they are grappling with how to differentiate public health policies, such as mask wearing, between the vaccinated and those who are not.

Asia’s planned travel bubbles burst by Delta variant of coronavirus

Both Singapore and Israel, for example, reinstated some curbs recently to battle a surge in infections driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, while England lifted almost all restrictions this week, despite high caseloads.

“We’ve got to accept that all of us will have to have some restrictions, vaccinated or not vaccinated,” said Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases doctor and microbiologist at Canberra Hospital in the Australian capital.

“It’s just the restrictions are likely to be higher for those unvaccinated than vaccinated people, but that may still mean they have mask mandates indoors, for instance.”

The Singapore data also showed that infections in the last 14 days among vaccinated people older than 61 stood at about 88 per cent, higher than the figure of just over 70 per cent for the younger group.

Linfa Wang, a professor at Duke-NUS Medical School, said elderly people had been shown to have weaker immune responses upon vaccination.

In Israel, which also has a high vaccination rate, about half of the 46 patients hospitalised in severe condition by early July had been vaccinated, and the majority were from risk groups, authorities said.

It was not immediately clear if the Singapore data reflected reduced protection offered by vaccines against the Delta variant, the most common form in the wealthy city state in recent months.

Why Singaporeans are lining up for Sinovac jabs despite efficacy concerns

Two doses of vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca are nearly as effective against Delta as against the previously dominant Alpha variant, according to a study published this week.

Singapore uses the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in its national vaccination programme.

Friday’s 130 new locally-transmitted infections were off this week’s 11-month high. The recent rise in cases prompted authorities to tighten curbs on social gatherings in the push to boost vaccinations, particularly among the elderly.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Vaccinated people make up 3 in 4 cases 3 in 4 coronavirus patients received jabs