SINGAPORE - Ten vaccination centres have closed and more will be closing in the next few weeks.
Checks by The Straits Times show that 30 vaccination centres are currently operating, down from 40 in June last year.
Last Wednesday (March 16), the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and the Early Childhood Development Agency urged the public to visit centres that have remained open.
The authorities said: "We invite individuals, parents and guardians to take full advantage of the capacity and good geographical spread of our vaccination centres before more are closed down in the coming weeks."
These closures come as the Republic's inoculation rate continues to increase.
95 per cent of the eligible population has completed the full vaccination regimen and 71 per cent of the total population has received a booster shot.
Experts told ST that the closure of vaccination centres is a sign that Singapore may be closer to the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Professor Dale Fisher, senior infectious diseases consultant at National University Hospital, said: "Vaccination centres were established because of the need to undertake the mass vaccination exercise efficiently and quickly.
"That mission is somewhat accomplished and the need for future vaccinations can likely be met by the usual permanent health service infrastructure in Singapore."
Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, agreed that a smaller number of centres, or perhaps primary care providers, could serve this purpose at this late stage of the vaccine roll-out.
Prof Cook said: "I'm sure there will be fourth shots at some point in the future, but it remains unclear whether all of us will need to get those or just those at high risk; if the latter, it may again be that the primary care sector could be the main facilitator of this."
Healthcare providers noted that most of the people coming forward are those taking their booster dose or recovered Covid-19 patients due for their jabs.
Healthway Medical, which runs four vaccination centres, said that with the majority of the population vaccinated, the number of patients requiring vaccination should decrease with time.
A Raffles Medical spokesman said: "At the 11 vaccination centres that Raffles Medical operates, we have seen a general decrease in the number of people coming for their Covid-19 vaccination compared with the beginning of this year."
When ST visited four vaccination centres on Monday (March 21), some people waiting for their jabs also felt the upcoming closures are timely.
Retired banker Harry Tan, 65, who was at Bishan Community Club for his booster dose, said: "There are many empty seats when you visit a vaccination centre now. Some vaccination centres used to be badminton courts — it would be good to have those sports facilities again."
Ms Sheeren Ong, 45, who was also at Bishan Community Club for her booster, suggested: "Staff (from the closed centres) can be redeployed to Covid-19 treatment facilities to help those with more severe symptoms."
Prof Fisher said vaccination centres could be re-established should the need arises.
"Everything that gets 'undone' as we step down pandemic measures needs to be reversible if, for instance, Covid-19 mutates or a new pandemic virus or severe flu appears. This is what Covid-19 resilient means," he added.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.