Singapore

First batch of Covid-19 vaccine arrives in Singapore

It is the first Pfizer-BioNTech shipment to arrive in Asia; PM Lee thanks agencies and workers for their work

The first batch of the Covid-19 vaccine has landed, as Singapore took a crucial step towards vaccinating its population.

The vaccine - the first shipment from Pfizer-BioNTech to arrive in Asia - was carried by a Singapore Airlines (SIA) Boeing 747-400 freighter SQ7979.

The cargo flight had departed from Brussels, Belgium, on Sunday and landed at Changi Airport at 7.36pm yesterday.

The shipment was prioritised for loading into the aircraft in Brussels, as well as during unloading in Singapore, SIA said.

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, Mr Kevin Shum, the director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, and the chief executives of Changi Airport Group and SIA were among those who witnessed the arrival of the vaccine.

Ground handler Sats moved the vaccines to its cold chain facility Sats Coolport before they were loaded onto a refrigerated truck that will send them to an external storage facility.

In a Facebook post, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was delighted to see the arrival of the first shipment of vaccines and thanked various agencies and workers that had made this possible, including the Health Sciences Authority, Ministry of Health, public servants and logistics workers.

"It's been a long and arduous year. I hope this news will give Singaporeans cheer this festive season, and reason to be optimistic for 2021."

Speaking to reporters at the facility, Mr Ong said: "We are ready to (bring in more vaccines) and a lot of preparation work has gone into making this as smooth as possible."

SIA said it had conducted a trial along the same freighter flight route on Dec 19, to test its vaccine handling capability.

It carried out the trial with cool boxes used to pack the actual vaccine, and had tracked the internal temperature within these boxes throughout the flight. It also monitored the rate at which dry ice within the box turned into carbon dioxide.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the first Covid-19 vaccine approved by the Health Sciences Authority in Singapore.

The multi-ministry task force will announce details of the roll-out in due course, PM Lee said.

The vaccine is already being administered in countries such as Britain, Canada and the United States.

Other vaccines are expected to arrive in the coming months, PM Lee announced last week.

The vaccines will be offered on a free and voluntary basis to all Singaporeans and long-term residents who are currently here. Priority will be given to healthcare and front-line workers, as well as elderly and vulnerable patients.

If all goes to plan, there will be enough vaccines for everyone in Singapore by the third quarter of 2021. A high vaccine adoption rate will help to combat the coronavirus situation here.

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