Covid-19 vaccines and you: Understanding Singapore's vaccination strategy

Diversifying Singapore's vaccine portfolio will improve its chances of securing a suitable vaccine.
Diversifying Singapore's vaccine portfolio will improve its chances of securing a suitable vaccine.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Covid-19 vaccinations have started in Singapore for healthcare front-liners and will be rolled out to the elderly and the rest of the population progressively. From safety to efficacy and the nation's vaccination strategy, Insight answers all the key questions.

Q: As Singapore's community cases are so low, why should I be vaccinated?

A: Trying to run an effective vaccination programme while keeping Covid-19 infections down is a very challenging task, Associate Professor Lim Poh Lian, who is part of the expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination, said.

Hence, it makes more sense to start vaccinating now while the country can still afford to do so.

If Singapore ever gets hit by a second wave, vaccinating a lot of people during lockdown is very challenging, and the vaccine will take time, around five weeks or more, to generate sufficient immunity.

Q: Will being vaccinated give me the green light to travel freely, without serving quarantine or stay-home notice?

A: Studies on the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines are being monitored by the Government.

It will consider relaxing stay-home measures for vaccinated travellers if the vaccines prove to significantly curb the spread of the disease, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19.

But it is still unclear how vaccines will impact travel, as much is still not known about the extent to which the vaccines can reduce transmission and infection, and how long the immunity will last.

The main benefit of the vaccine is the protection it offers to those who are vaccinated, Mr Wong said.

If there is clear evidence that transmission risks can be lowered significantly, then the Government will certainly consider some relaxation to the stay-home notice regime for vaccinated travellers, he added.

The Government will fine-tune its approach over time.

Q: Why have we made advance purchases of three vaccines instead of just one?

A: There is a need to secure a portfolio of Covid-19 vaccines to cater to different segments of the population instead of relying on one vaccine. Given the expected global demand, diversifying Singapore's vaccine portfolio will improve its chances of securing a suitable vaccine.

The Government will have to take into account varying efficacy and safety profiles for different groups when deciding how to vaccinate the population.

For example, some vaccines may not be effective for children and others may not be effective for seniors.

Q: Is there a target take-up rate for vaccination?

A: There is no specific target at the moment. The target is as high a take-up rate as possible, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said.

The Government will attempt to reach out to all eligible Singaporeans and local residents to encourage them to be vaccinated, and will enhance public education and outreach to urge as many as possible to sign up.

Q: When will the next shipment of vaccines arrive?

A: Singapore is expecting more Covid-19 vaccine deliveries in the next few months, including from US biotechnology firm Moderna and China's Sinovac.

Q: Are migrant workers given priority to take the jab? How will migrant workers be encouraged to be vaccinated?

A: The priority for vaccinations is based on medical risk, Prof Lim said. This means that groups who are at higher risk of infection or severe Covid-19 infection should get priority.

Singapore will be offering vaccination to migrant workers based on their medical priority group, and will encourage them to get vaccinated by making the Covid-19 vaccines free to all long-term residents in Singapore, so that cost is not a barrier for them.