NUS expert: Life not improved “by as much as we might’ve hoped” despite 80% vaccination rate

Singapore — NUS infectious diseases modelling expert Alex Cook was quoted in an Australian news site as saying life has not improved “by as much as we might have hoped” in spite of the country’s high vaccination rate.

According to a Reuters Covid-19 tracker, Singapore is the most fully vaccinated country in the world, with the number of fully vaccinated individuals now at over 80 per cent.

However, despite Singapore’s high vaccination number, Australia’s ABC News noted that “the example of Singapore suggests that achieving a milestone coveted by Australia is not a guarantee of returning to anything like pre-pandemic life.”

With the number of recent infections in Singapore, the highest they have been in over a year, more reopening measures have been delayed and social gatherings decreased.

Dr Cook is quoted in a Sept 13 ABC article as saying, “The community cases have actually gone up since reaching 80 per cent coverage, in part because we’re allowing more social events for those who are vaccinated and, I dare say, more fatigue at the control measures.”

Partly to blame for this is the more highly transmissible Delta variant. Dr Cook told ABC that it is “incredibly hard” to prevent its spread, and that Singapore is showing that “vaccination rates will not help that much.”

However, he added that the breakthrough Covid infections among those who are vaccinated are commonly asymptomatic or mild.

But because of the Delta variant, the 80 per cent vaccination goalpost once set may need to be moved, another infectious diseases expert, Leong Hoe Nam told ABC.

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”They set a target of 80 per cent, which is too low … it would have worked fine for the Alpha strain but this is Delta, a variant with easily two to three times more transmissibility.”

But he noted that raising the number of vaccinated people is a challenge due to those who are resistant to getting jabbed.

“They now need at least 90 per cent vaccination, which is technically not possible due to hardened anti-vaxxers or refusers,” he added, explaining that 80 per cent is “not good enough because it can still burden the hospital system very significantly and there will be too many excess deaths. The numbers are mind-boggling, given what’s possible over the next few weeks.”

In the ABC article, NUS’ Dr Cook commented on travellers from Germany, which Singapore recently opened up to.

He said due to the high rate of infection at present, “even if travellers bring another 50 cases that will have very little effect on community risk.”

Dr Cook even encouraged opening up to more countries. “With 90 per cent of the eligible age groups vaccinated, society is quite resilient now to severe disease, and so a greater range of travel corridors should be considered.” /TISG

Read also: COVID-19 | Singapore most fully vaccinated country in the world against Covid-19, Reuters tracker shows

COVID-19 | Singapore most fully vaccinated country in the world against Covid-19, Reuters tracker shows

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