People wearing face masks as a preventative measure against the spread of Covid-19 in Singapore.

Maverick Asio | SOPA pictures | LightRakete | Getty Images

SINGAPORE – Singapore will expand its Covid vaccination program to all residents 12 years and older from the beginning of next month.

The government announced Thursday that some permanent residents and long-term pass holders will be able to start booking appointments from July 2.

Since June 11, citizens between the ages of 12 and 39 have had a priority window to book vaccinations. The Singaporeans were originally given a two-week window, but the Ministry of Health said that this period will be extended by a week.

Authorities approved the use of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 in mid-May.

The Southeast Asian country has one of the fastest vaccination rollouts in the Asia-Pacific region, but it is lagging behind many countries in the west.

The Ministry of Health said that around 3 million people have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine so far, of which 2 million are fully vaccinated. Singapore’s population is around 5.8 million people.

Accelerated vaccinations

Singapore will step up its vaccination campaign, increasing daily doses from 40,000 in May to 80,000, authorities said.

The country had previously extended the length of time between the first and second dose to allow more people to get their first shot. However, as the country speeds up its rollout, officials said some people who have already booked appointments can get their second recordings sooner.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said Singapore plans to have two-thirds of its population fully vaccinated by August 9, the country’s national day.

Ong added that the country has signed a pre-sale agreement with biotech company Novavax. Last week, the company announced that its vaccine candidate was 90.4% overall effective in a Phase III clinical trial.

“We hope vaccine shipments can arrive before the end of the year for those who want to ingest something that is not mRNA,” he said. “But in the meantime, please keep considering mRNA vaccines. They work very well.”

Restrictions could potentially be relaxed for fully vaccinated individuals

Treasury Secretary Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the Singapore Covid Task Force, also said authorities are discussing the revision of public health guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals.

“We could allow larger group sizes for gatherings with only vaccinated people and also relax the rules on social distancing in such environments,” he said during a press conference, adding that this could apply to services, concerts and sporting events.

Wong added that the government was working on new guidelines for people traveling in Singapore. For example, people who have been vaccinated may receive or shorten stay-at-home or hotel quarantine notifications depending on the country they are returning from, he said.

“These are the possibly revised guidelines that apply to vaccinated individuals. We are still working on it and will announce it when we are ready, ”he said.

As of Thursday, Singapore has reported 62,493 cases of Covid-19 infections and 35 deaths.