SINGAPORE - Prior bookings will be required before people head down to the vaccination centres to receive their Covid-19 shot, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Monday (Jan 4).
This is necessary given the cold-chain requirements at the vaccination sites and multi-dose vials of the vaccines, he said.
"It will also ensure operational efficiency and minimise individual wait times," said Mr Gan in Parliament, adding that more information on how to make the bookings will be provided later.
Mr Gan said that the Government is concurrently readying clinics and vaccination centres for people to be vaccinated when it is their turn, even as healthcare workers are receiving their vaccinations within their healthcare institutions.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the first one against the coronavirus that has been approved for use in Singapore, with vaccines by other pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Sinovac expected to arrive in the months ahead.
BioNTech had said that once removed from the freezer, the vaccine can be stored for up to five days at between 2 deg C and 8 deg C and up to two hours at temperatures up to 30 deg C, prior to use.
The vaccine, which uses new mRNA technology, must be stored at ultra-low temperatures of about minus 70 deg C before being shipped to distribution centres in specially designed cool boxes filled with dry ice.
Forty staff from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) were the first to receive doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec 30, including Professor Leo Yee Sin, the centre's executive director.
The remaining NCID staff will be progressively vaccinated, with the rest of the National Healthcare Group management and staff from this month.
Mr Gan said that experts consulted by the Government have recommended that the nation prioritise vaccinations of groups that are most at risk. This is also in line with the guidance issued by the World Health Organisation, he added.
The nation's Covid-19 vaccination drive is kicking off first with healthcare workers and staff working in the healthcare sector as they work in direct care of patients or in supporting roles, he said.
Other front-line and essential personnel will also be among the first to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, Mr Gan said. This includes swabbers hired by the Health Promotion Board, as well as staff working at government quarantine facilities, community care facilities and dedicated stay-home notice facilities.
Mr Gan added that the elderly and those at greater risk of severe disease from the coronavirus will be vaccinated from next month.
This phase will begin with seniors aged 70 and above and those in jobs or settings where the risk of a super-spreading event is high, such as the construction, marine and process sectors, including migrant workers.
"Thereafter, we will progressively broaden our vaccinations to include other Singaporeans and long-term residents who are medically eligible," he said.
Mr Gan added that as more vaccines are approved for use, Singapore will adjust its vaccination programme, depending on vaccine supply and disease epidemiology.
He told the House that the Government had started planning for the Covid-19 vaccination programme "very early on", and that it has in place end-to-end processes to meet the cold-chain logistics requirements.
This includes delivery and receipt of the doses at the airport, storage and transport to vaccination sites so that the quality and efficacy of the vaccines are not compromised.