Singapore finds two breakthrough Omicron cases in residents who got COVID booster shots

December 10, 2021, 4:07 AM UTC

Two Singapore residents may have caught the omicron variant even after receiving COVID-19 booster shots, in cases which may shed light on the protection offered by a third dose of vaccine. 

A 24-year-old female airport passenger-service worker has returned a preliminary positive test to omicron, in what would be the city-state’s first local case of the variant, the health ministry said in a statement late Thursday. The second person is considered an imported case after returning from Germany via the vaccinated travel lane on Dec. 6. Both had received a third dose of vaccines, the ministry said. 

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE earlier this week said initial lab studies show a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine may be needed to neutralize the omicron variant. Company researchers observed a 25-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies that fight the variant, compared with the original strain of the virus, in people who got just two shots. However, boosting with an additional shot of the vaccine restored protection to a level similar to the initial two-dose regimen. 

“Given its high transmissibility and spread to many parts of the world, we should expect to find more omicron cases at our borders and also within our community,” Singapore’s health ministry said.

Both people are recovering in isolation at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, and all close contacts will be placed in 10-day quarantine at designated facilities, the ministry said.

The airport worker had been tested as part of weekly testing for frontline border workers. She was asymptomatic when detected through the testing, according to the statement. In the second case, the 46-year-old had tested negative with a polymerase chain reaction test on arrival. However, she developed a runny nose the next day and sought medical treatment the day after that, when she tested positive.   

Singapore has seen a sharp drop in community cases over the past month, along with a significant easing in hospital loads. the city-state has one of the world’s best vaccination rates, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 87% of the total population is fully vaccinated, while 96% of those eligible are fully inoculated, most with Pfizer or Moderna. Some 29% have also received booster jabs. Government officials have said jabs for those age 5-11 will be offered soon.

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