Singaporeans, long-term residents to be offered free vaccinations
PM Lee encourages everyone to take up the offer as nation moves into phase three from Dec 28
All adult Singaporeans and long-term residents here will be offered free Covid-19 vaccinations, with priority given to those most at risk.
In a televised address to the nation yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore will have acquired enough vaccines for everyone by the third quarter of next year.
PM Lee also announced that phase three of Singapore's reopening will begin on Dec 28, with further easing of Covid-10 measures and will last for possibly a year or more.
The changes include raising the maximum number for social gatherings to eight people from the current five and increasing the capacity for attractions, malls and places of worship.
PM Lee said the Ministry of Health (MOH) had set up a committee of doctors and experts to recommend a vaccination strategy for the nation.
Among its proposals was for the entire adult population to be vaccinated on a voluntary basis, starting with healthcare workers, front-line personnel, the elderly and vulnerable.
"Thereafter, the committee proposes to progressively vaccinate the rest of the population, and to cover everyone who wants a vaccination by the end of next year," he added.
Noting that the Government has accepted the recommendations, PM Lee strongly encouraged everyone who is offered the vaccine to take it up.
"When you get yourself vaccinated, you are not just protecting yourself, you are also doing your part to protect others, especially your loved ones," he said.
The Health Sciences Authority has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use here, and the first batch is expected to arrive by the end of this month, PM Lee said.
Revealing that the Government had been working quietly behind the scenes, since early in the pandemic, to secure access to vaccines, he said that $1 billion was set aside and deals were struck with the most promising candidates, including with Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac.
PM Lee said the Government also supported local efforts to develop a vaccine, giving "our own scientists and researchers the opportunity to do cutting-edge work".
It was also insurance, in case the global supply chain was disrupted, he added.
"This way, we built up a diversified portfolio of options to ensure that Singapore would be near the front of the queue for vaccines and not last in line."
The Pfizer-BioNTech requires two doses to be given 21 days apart. It is reported to be 95 per cent effective against the coronavirus. But there is some concern after two cases of allergic reactions in Britain were reported in the media last week.
Addressing this yesterday at a virtual press conference, the multi-ministry task force said it has considered the risks and set out plans to mitigate them.
MOH director of medical services Kenneth Mak said the vaccine will not be given to those with a history of severe allergic reactions.
"Indeed, we are concerned about allergic reactions and this is also a similar concern for any other vaccine that is available today," he said.
If any allergic reaction is observed after the first dose, the second dose will not be given.
The two cases, who are healthcare workers, have a history of serious allergies and have recovered after treatment.
Professor Mak said the health authorities will consider if the different types of vaccines would be more appropriate for certain demographics.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong also stressed that while those who are vaccinated may be protected from the virus, the data is unclear if it prevents transmission to someone who is not vaccinated.
"Despite vaccination, all the safe distancing measures must still continue to be observed," he said. "And we will monitor the development in this area and adjust our safe management measures progressively as time goes on."
Similarly, PM Lee warned that despite to move to phase 3, the battle is far from won.
"The Covid-19 virus has not been eradicated. There is a long way to go.... This is absolutely not the time to relax and let our guard down."