Survey Shows Over 35% of People in S’pore Don’t Intend to Take COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters


Last Updated on 2023-05-05 , 4:43 pm

In a survey commissioned by Moderna Biotech Singapore and the Asia Pacific Immunisation Coalition (APIC), 1,219 adults were polled on their attitudes, knowledge and behaviours around COVID-19.

The survey revealed that approximately 87% of Singaporeans do not consider COVID-19 a significant threat to their health. 

Additionally, more than 35% of those surveyed stated they do not intend to receive booster vaccinations.

The complacent mindset exhibited by Singapore residents toward COVID-19 has become a concern for local medical professionals as the virus is no longer perceived as a threat despite the potential risks of infection.

Dr Ong Kian Chung, President of Singapore’s Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Association, emphasised the importance of follow-up booster vaccinations in Singapore’s endemic era. 

This is particularly crucial as the economy has reopened, and travel restrictions have been lifted.

Citizens Must Still Be Vigilant Against COVID-19

Dr Ong noted that more citizens are showing complacency towards protecting themselves from the COVID-19 virus, as evidenced by the increased number of people not considering booster vaccinations.

Likewise, APIC co-chair Professor Tikki Pangestu expressed concern over the complacency observed in the survey results and urged the public to keep up with their vaccinations, especially in the face of Singapore’s endemic approach to the virus.

Recently, Singapore’s shift to an endemic approach to COVID-19 has led to the relaxation of several pandemic-related measures, including the resumption of travel. 

For example, in February 2023, the country discontinued the requirement for mask-wearing among public transportation riders. 

The need for non-vaccinated travellers to present negative pre-departure test results upon entering Singapore was also eliminated.

However, Professor Pangestu emphasised that adopting an endemic approach does not necessarily mean the risk of COVID-19 has decreased. 

The virus continuously evolves, and vulnerable groups are at significant risk of contracting severe illnesses or dying.

Spike in Cases Due to Endemic Approach

As Singapore adopts an endemic approach to COVID-19, citizens’ attitudes towards the virus have become more relaxed, mirroring the country’s easing of pandemic-related measures. 

However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the COVID-19 virus is constantly evolving, and its strains will still be around for a while.


Arcturus, a new Pokemo-no, I mean variant, of the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16, has recently caused a surge of COVID-19 cases in India earlier this month (April 2023).

On 13 April 2023, the country logged over 10,000 new COVID-19 cases from the variant. The variant is similar to the XBB.1.5 variant, but it has an additional mutation in the spike protein, which increases its infectivity rate and potentially its ability to cause disease. 

This variant has been detected in 22 countries, with over 800 sequences of the virus recorded.

Additionally, the XBB strain, aka the xiao baby strain, has been detected in Singapore, resulting in an estimated 28,410 new COVID-19 cases from 26 March to 1 April 2023. 

Clinics in Singapore have also reported an increase in COVID-related cases and respiratory-related illnesses like the flu.


Although most COVID-19 patients in Singapore have mild and manageable symptoms, doctors have advised higher-risk patients, such as the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions, to remain vigilant as they may be more susceptible to the virus.

Vulnerable Persons More Susceptible to Virus

Image: Channel NewsAsia

The poll revealed that despite medical experts advising higher-risk patients to remain cautious about COVID-19, these vulnerable groups still do not view the virus as a significant threat.

Of those classified as higher-risk, including individuals with chronic lung, heart or diabetes conditions, 77% do not believe that the virus poses a high risk to their health, and almost 30% have no plans to receive booster shots.

Similarly, among respondents aged 60 and above, 85% view the virus as low risk, and over 37% do not intend to keep up with their vaccinations.

These findings concern Professor Pangestu, as medical experts have warned that vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with concurrent medical conditions are more likely to suffer from severe infections.

For example, according to Dr Ong, individuals with respiratory conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are at a higher risk of hospitalisation if they contract COVID-19.


Weaker immune systems, such as those found in immunocompromised individuals and the elderly, make them more likely to experience severe symptoms upon contracting COVID-19, as the virus tends to attack the host’s immune system.

Some virus variants, such as the XBB.1.5 variant, prove more contagious due to a mutation that allows the virus to adhere to human cells and replicate quickly.

Furthermore, nine seniors aged between 64 and 90 have died from complications linked to COVID-19, bringing the death toll from COVID-19-related causes to 130 in 2021.

Side Effects Dissuade Some Against Getting Boosters

Despite the health risks COVID-19 poses, more than half of the respondents are more fearful of the potential side effects of COVID-19 booster vaccinations than contracting the virus itself.

Among those aged 60 and above, over 60% expressed reluctance towards receiving additional vaccinations.


While the side effects of booster shots are generally mild and moderate, such as fever, headache, fatigue, or pain at the injection site, recent reports of deaths linked to vaccine side effects have amplified fears. 

One woman, for example, died of myocarditis, a rare occurrence of heart inflammation caused by the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The woman had passed four days after receiving the COVID-19 booster shot in April 2023. 

This case is one of two deaths attributed to the occurrence of myocarditis caused by COVID-19 vaccination side effects.

Boosters Required to Defend Against New Strain of Virus

Despite this, it is essential to note that the incidence of severe side effects or death from vaccinations has been consistently low. 

Data from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) shows that reports of adverse and severe side effects from vaccines in Singapore are minimal, at 0.11% and 0.007%, respectively.

Furthermore, Mr Ong reiterated that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks. This is because complications from COVID-19 vaccines, such as those produced by Pfizer and Moderna, are much lower than the complications that can arise from the disease.

mRNA vaccines, such as those mentioned above, instruct cells in the human body to create a protein that induces an immune response. 


This immune response, which generates antibodies, protects people from getting sick from COVID-19 in the future.

Mr Ong underscored that these vaccines had been validated by scientific research and would be the most logical solution to overcoming the pandemic and reaching a state where most of the population is immune to COVID-19.

Singaporeans Still Believe in Vaccines

Despite the survey revealing an increasingly complacent attitude towards COVID-19, a significant number of respondents, more than 55%, still believe that getting vaccinated is the best way to protect themselves from the virus.

Professor Pangestu stressed that vaccines are crucial in protecting the vulnerable population and that a more vigilant attitude is necessary. 

Higher vaccination rates can lead to fewer hospitalisations, especially for at-risk people.

He shared that the government is also implementing measures to educate and communicate with the public and vulnerable groups about the importance of vaccination.

In addition, Ms Evelyn Pang, General Manager of Moderna Biotech Singapore, suggested that developing a combination vaccine that covers COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus, and the flu could increase vaccine uptake.

She said the company is looking into creating a vaccine “cocktail” using technology once the efficacy and safety of such a solution are proven to meet the public health needs of Singaporeans.