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Asia Minute: Singapore takes aggressive measures to encourage vaccinations and boosters

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

With COVID cases still climbing, state health officials are calling for more people to get vaccinated, and for those who qualify, to get boosters. One small country in Asia has been more successful in convincing people to get those shots.

When it comes to COVID-19, what does it mean to be “fully vaccinated?”

Three weeks ago, the government of Singapore said it was changing the official definition to mean those who have received a booster shot.

The country’s vaccination rate is hovering around 90%.

When the government made the announcement about the change in definition, about a third of residents had already gotten their booster shots.

But Singapore had a slow start to its vaccine campaign.

In April only about 8% of its population was vaccinated — far behind the United States at the time.

Over the following three months, health officials doubled their daily pace of vaccinations — and also started changing the rules for unvaccinated people — to a level some called extreme.

Unvaccinated residents were not allowed into shopping malls or gyms.

Restaurant meals were allowed with a COVID-19 test.

An even more aggressive policy was adopted in early December.

The government has now stopped covering the medical expenses of COVID patients who are not vaccinated — unless there are medical or religious reasons.

At the time of that policy change, the Ministry of Health said “unvaccinated persons make up a sizable majority of those who require intensive inpatient care, and disproportionately contribute to the strain on our health care resources.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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