The Straits Times says

Vaccines for a safer post-Covid-19 S'pore

Singaporeans will be relieved and reassured in equal measure by the announcement that free Covid-19 vaccinations will be offered to all Singaporeans and long-term residents who are currently here. A whole-of-government effort, carried out painstakingly behind the scenes since the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, has borne fruit in getting Singapore early access to vaccines. A committee of doctors and experts has been set up by the Ministry of Health to recommend a vaccination strategy for the nation. If everything goes according to plan, Singapore will have enough vaccines for everyone here by the third quarter of next year. Those at greatest risk will be given first priority, but progressive coverage will extend the inoculation to the rest of the population so that everyone who wants to be vaccinated will be safe by the end of next year. The prospect of a fully vaccinated population is a welcome development and represents the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel after a year of news dominated by Covid-19.

Although vaccination will not be compulsory, Singaporeans should avail themselves of this protection once it becomes available, unless they have health conditions that could make inoculation risky. The early signs are that the vaccines have proved to be effective against the disease, but whether they are as useful in preventing infection is under study. Later-generation vaccines might combine prevention of disease and infection in the first place. While this means that vaccines are not a silver bullet, the larger the number of inoculated people and the sooner this can happen, the greater the protection that society will enjoy as a whole.

There is reason to believe that the take-up rate here will be high enough for the vaccines to make a critical difference. A recent survey commissioned by this newspaper of 1,000 people aged 16 and above found that about eight in 10 were willing to be vaccinated. The poll suggests that Singaporeans are far more open to Covid-19 vaccines than people in countries such as the United States. Now that Singapore has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the prospects of protection from Covid-19 are no longer hypothetical. The concrete availability of a solution should encourage more Singaporeans to opt for vaccination. Apart from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Singapore has signed advance purchase agreements with the makers of the most promising candidates, including Moderna and Sinovac.

Diversifying sources of supply is important, given the expected international rush to vaccine-makers. Ultimately, the safety and effectiveness of vaccines are what count the most in the choices that people make. The health authorities here have been active in monitoring both aspects. As the vaccines come on board, they offer a way out of a year-long crisis like no other.

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