SINGAPORE - Singapore is closely monitoring ongoing trials on the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines on children, and hopes to be able to certify and administer them on students here in the near future.
For now, the vaccines that the Government has authorised for use against Covid-19 are allowed only for those who are 16 and older, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong.
"But there are trials that are happening now. We are monitoring the trials," he said in a video posted on his social media accounts on Sunday (March 21).
"And we hope that before too long, we will be able to certify the use of the vaccines for children in Singapore too."
Mr Wong was replying to a question on whether students will need to eventually be vaccinated against Covid-19, as part of a "AskMeAnything" session on his social media.
The national vaccination programme has been extended to more than 150,000 teachers and other staff in educational institutions. The Health Ministry had said the plan is to inoculate those who come into prolonged contact with children and young people, as vaccines are not yet certified for those below the age of 16.
Meanwhile, students pursuing healthcare courses in Singapore's local universities, polytechnics, the Institutes of Technical Education and private colleges have been offered the Covid-19 vaccine since mid-January. Students enrolled in such programmes undergo clinical training at healthcare institutions, where they frequently interact with patients and the exposure puts them at risk of catching the virus.
Other questions that he took on in the five-minute video included whether the high-stakes Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) will be easier with the new grading system and if homework and exams can be removed.
Mr Wong said the PSLE system remains the same, and that the change to grading is to send a message about not chasing after every last mark in the exams. Homework and tests cannot be done away completely, as part of learning is pushing oneself and practising, he added.
When asked about the possibility of travelling overseas, Mr Wong, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 here, said there are no easy answers, as this depends on how well countries can keep the pandemic under control.
But he expressed hope that some travel without quarantine will be possible before the end of this year, should vaccination programmes continue apace.
"A lot depends on the (Covid-19) situation around the world. Also on the vaccination programme that we are presently undertaking," he added.
"So if all goes well with vaccination, then there is a chance that we may be able to allow for more travel without the quarantine when you come back by the year end.
"But we have to keep our fingers crossed."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.