SINGAPORE - More than 400,000 students will be invited to receive their Covid-19 jabs from Tuesday (June 1), with priority given to secondary and pre-university students in graduating cohorts, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Monday (May 31).
The roll-out of the vaccinate drive for younger people here comes amid more cases of children getting infected in schools and tuition centres in the recent Covid-19 outbreak.
A number of schoolchildren have tested positive for the virus over the past month, forcing some schools to switch to home-based learning before nationwide restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the community kicked in on May 16.
Giving an update about Singapore's Covid-19 situation in a televised address, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday: "The children were not seriously ill, but parents are naturally worried. Therefore, we will take advantage of the June holidays to vaccinate students."
More children have been infected with Covid-19 this year compared with 2020, with more than 70 students in pre-schools, schools and institutes of higher learning who have tested positive since April 15.
For a start, the exercise will start with about 56,000 students who will be sitting for the N-, O-, and A-level as well as other equivalent qualifications, such as the International Baccalaureate diploma, in the second half of this year.
This is so that they can have greater flexibility in scheduling their vaccination appointments ahead of the upcoming national exams, the MOE said.
Over the next two weeks, invitations for the jabs will also be progressively extended to other full-time students, including those in madrasahs, special education (Sped) schools, and the international arms of Hwa Chong Institution, Anglo-Chinese School and St. Joseph's Institution.
The earliest vaccine slots for students will be made available on June 3, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said at a virtual press conference on Monday.
For most students, booking of the vaccination appointments will be conducted via the National Appointment System for vaccination. But students in ITE and Sped schools will receive instructions directly from their institutions.
Students, or parents and guardians of students under 18, will receive SMSes with a unique link for them to book vaccination appointments at any of the vaccination centres, so they have more flexibility to choose dates and venues in the month of June, the MOE said.
Those aged 18 and above can opt for either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, while those aged between 12 and 17 will only be offered the Pfizer jab as the Moderna jab has not been approved for use with the younger age group.
But only those who are 12 years old as at June 1 this year can receive the jab, while those whose 12th birthday falls after June 1 will be invited for vaccination at a later date.
To help parents who have questions and concerns about the vaccines, MOE will be partnering the Ministry of Health to organise webinars for them, said Mr Chan.
Parental consent is required for those below 18 to get their jabs, and parents or guardians will also have to accompany those below 13 to the vaccination appointments.
Four new vaccination centres
Meanwhile, four dedicated MOE vaccination centres will be set up to support the vaccination-roll out for students.
They include three centres at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College campuses in Ang Mo Kio, Choa Chu Kang and Simei, and one at the Raffles City Convention Centre.
The ITE centres will be able to administer 1,600 doses of the vaccine a day, while the Raffles City centre can do 2,000 doses a day.
The ITE will arrange for their students to take their shots on campus, while the Ministry of Health will send mobile vaccination teams to Sped schools to carry out vaccinations for Sped students who are aged 12 and above, as they may find it challenging to visit a vaccination site.
Schools will also look into alternative vaccination arrangements for those who need extra support when schools reopen after the June holidays, including providing transport to the vaccination centres, MOE said.
The entire vaccination exercise for students, which also includes full-time students in continuing education and training programmes - such as those enrolled in Master's programmes - is estimated to be completed by August.
But those who do not make an appointment when offered may take longer to receive their vaccinations, MOE added.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.