Singapore will this month begin administering Covid-19 booster shots for certain residents, officials confirmed on Friday, as governments around the world weigh the need for a third vaccine dose. Trade minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs Singapore’s pandemic task force, said an expert committee has evaluated the need for booster shots. “They have concluded that it will boost vaccine effectiveness and maintain a high level of protection against more severe infections,” he said during a virtual press conference. Eligibility for a third shot will include people whose immune systems are moderately or severely compromised, seniors older than 60 and residents of aged care facilities. The health ministry said people who are “immunocompromised” – such as patients undergoing cancer treatment – have a “blunted” response to vaccination. They are recommended to receive a third dose of the same mRNA vaccine two months after their second dose. Seniors, who are also at risk of severe Covid-19 infection, are recommended to receive a booster dose six to nine months after their second dose. Singapore’s drug regulators have approved only two mRNA vaccines – from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Residents can choose to take other vaccines approved under the World Health Organization’s emergency use listing – such as Sinovac, Sinopharm and AstraZeneca – but they will need to cover the costs. Health minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday said that as the Delta variant spread, international and local data showed more fully vaccinated individuals were becoming infected. Vaccines still protect against infections but that protection weakens, Ong said, highlighting the need for booster shots. Recognising waning immunity and increasing breakthrough infections, countries have started administering third doses to pre-empt a sharp rise in breakthrough infections. Covid-19: why a third shot is important for the immunocompromised Ong noted that Israel has begun offering booster shots while other nations, including Britain, Germany and France, will soon begin administering booster shots for seniors. For Singapore, authorities will look at extending the booster programme to other groups next. The health minister said he also expected vaccinations for children aged below 12 – the only group in Singapore not yet offered the jabs – to start early next year. Ong stressed that Singapore would have sufficient vaccines to proceed with its booster programme even after it had donated and “swapped” shots with other countries such as Australia. Singapore has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates. As of Thursday, 81 per cent of its 5.7 million population were fully vaccinated, while 84 per cent had received at least one dose. About 88 per cent of its eligible population were fully vaccinated. Nevertheless, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, another co-chair of the pandemic task force, said Singapore’s social distancing measures would not yet be relaxed. Fully vaccinated people can dine out and gather in groups of five while unvaccinated people are limited to dining in pairs at hawker centres. Wearing masks has been compulsory since the early days of the pandemic, except during exercise. Wong pointed to an increase in infections in recent days but said the number of people who were critically ill remained stable. While authorities were not imposing stricter measures, they were also not intending to loosen restrictions on activities further, he said, citing a time lag between the onset of infections and serious illness. “We want to take a bit of time to monitor the situation, to monitor the cases to make sure they do not lead to severe illnesses,” he said. “The commitment to reopen continues but as we have always said, we are doing it in a controlled manner. Step by step, feeling the stones as we cross the river.” Southeast Asia’s rich and powerful grab Covid-19 booster shots before many have had first jab Singapore has recorded more than 100 new cases per day over the past week, and on Friday alone, there were 216 locally transmitted cases. Of those, about 340 recent cases have been linked to eight bus interchanges. Authorities have confirmed that Singapore’s public transport system remains open and there is no evidence the virus has been spread to commuters.