As the world waits with bated breath for the COVID-19 vaccine that will save us all, here’s a gentle reminder that COVID-19 isn’t the only disease that can befall us right now.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) recently announced enhanced subsidies for recommended vaccinations in Singapore under the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule (NCIS) and the National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS) from 1 Nov 2020.
Basically, the enhanced subsidies will make it more affordable to get the recommended vaccinations in Singapore. Childhood developmental screening at all CHAS GP clinics and polyclinics will also be free.
Immunisation has been the key to reducing infection rates of many diseases, and even eliminating some that had previously wreaked havoc on the world. Vaccinations like the BCG not only help to protect the individual, but also aim to wipe out certain diseases completely. Approach your doctor for medical advice when you think about whether you should get that jab. Also, consider the fact that you could be protecting not just yourself, but future generations too.
Vaccination co-payment fees for Singaporean adults at CHAS GP clinics
|Type of vaccination
|Pioneer Generation cardholders
|Merdeka Generation / CHAS Blue / CHAS Orange cardholders
|CHAS Green cardholders / everyone else
|Hepatitis B (HepB) (Adult)
|Human papillomavirus (HPV2)
|Influenza (INF) (trivalent or quadrivalent)
|Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
|Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)
|Pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV23)
|Tetanus, reduced diptheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap)
|Varicella (chickenpox) (VAR)
All the above vaccinations are free for children, wherever applicable.
To qualify for the subsidies in the above table, you have to visit a CHAS GP clinic. Here is the full list of CHAS clinics.
By the way, it’s also worth noting that Medisave withdrawal limits have been raised for people with complex chronic conditions. From January next year, you can withdraw up to $700 (an increase from $500) per year to manage conditions under the Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP) which consists of 20 conditions including diabetes, hypertension and stroke.
Vaccination subsidies at Singapore polyclinics
|Household monthly income per person $2,000 and below, OR annual value of home for households with no income $21,000 and below
|Household monthly income per person over $2,000, OR annual value of home for households with no income more than $21,000
You must call ahead of time to make an appointment to be sure that the polyclinic you picked has the necessary vaccine.
What are the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule (NCIS) and National Adult Immunsiation Schedule (NAIS)?
The government reviews the vaccination schedules regularly, taking into account the burden the disease poses on the local population, the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, as well as cost-effectiveness.
The NCIS includes some vaccinations that are made compulsory at birth, namely diphtheria and measles. Surprisingly, the BCG is actually not compulsory at birth, but almost 100% of children in Singapore have had it. Thanks to the BCG, tuberculosis and meningitis are now almost unheard of in young people in Singapore.
As adults, we’re past the age of having to go for compulsory school health checkups, so most of us don’t really worry about getting vaccinations anymore. But if you look at the NAIS schedule, you’ll find that there are some vaccines that could be well worth getting.
For instance, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination protects women from cervical cancer, which is one of the few cancers that are almost completely preventable. The recommended age for the HPV vaccine is 18 to 26 years old, so it’s worth considering while you still can.
Hepatitis B is another condition that might be worth vaccinating against as it can cause liver damage and liver cancer, and can be transmitted from mother to infant or through household contact.
Benefits of getting vaccinated
When a virus or bacteria (an antigen) enters your body, your body’s response is to produce antibodies to try to fight the infection. When it comes to certain diseases like chickenpox, the immune response can be long-term — that means that every time your body encounters this particular type of antigen, it remembers that it has to make antibodies.
A vaccine introduces antigens into your body in order to trigger a release of antibodies. These antigens are either weakened or dead, so they won’t make you sick. Now that your body has “learnt” how to create antibodies when it encounters this particular type of antigen, you’ll be immune to future infections.
Vaccinations not only stop you from getting sick if you encounter certain types of antigens, but also help to eradicate or at least contain contagious diseases within society. Some diseases like smallpox have been completely wiped off the face of the earth thanks to vaccines.
No matter how healthily you eat or how regularly you exercise, your immune system is not likely to be strong enough to defend against many of the serious infectious diseases targeted by the recommended vaccines.
With the implementation of recommended immunisation programmes, Singapore has been largely free from certain diseases that plague some developing countries. For instance, tuberculosis is pretty much unheard of among young Singaporeans thanks to the BCG. It used to be a major problem and many older Singaporeans who might have been infected earlier can still develop symptoms in the future.
What about the dark side of vaccines frequently touted by anti-vaxxers? After all, many vaccines do come with a very slight risk of complications. In Singapore, the Health Sciences Authority is responsible for regulating them to make sure that they do not do more harm than good.
In the case of many serious contagious diseases, the benefits of getting vaccinated outweigh the slight risk of something going wrong. Certainly, in the case of Covid-19, it’s going to be necessary to get large segments of many populations vaccinated so that healthcare systems and economies can recover.