All Singaporeans will soon be able to walk in to get Covid-19 jabs at vaccination centres offering the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine, as well as in polyclinics, said the Ministry of Health's (MOH) group director of the crisis strategy and operations group, Mr Dinesh Vasu Dash, yesterday.
His update comes after the Government announced on Monday that anyone aged 18 and above can now walk in to get their jabs without an appointment at 11 community vaccination centres offering the Moderna vaccine. This applies to all Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders.
Yesterday, Mr Dinesh said: "It's a matter of time before that is extended to all Singaporeans across all vaccination centres and polyclinics." He was outlining the nation's Covid-19 vaccination programme at the Singapore Healthcare Management Congress.
There are 26 vaccination centres islandwide offering the Pfizer vaccine.
Singapore aims to get about 80 per cent of its population fully vaccinated by early next month, and that will allow the country to reach a certain degree of herd immunity, said Mr Dinesh.
As at Sunday, MOH said 62 per cent of Singapore residents have been fully vaccinated.
Attendees at the virtual webinar also asked Mr Dinesh when more foreigners will be vaccinated.
He replied that the next step would be to open the national vaccination drive to short-term visit pass holders, notably the elderly ones who came to Singapore to visit their families, and were unable to return to their home towns due to travel restrictions.
"I think it's only right, from a public health standpoint, to vaccinate them at some point," he added.
"We are in the process of examining this particular group, and looking at how best we can get them onto the vaccination programme."
He added that when the country reaches a 70 or 80 per cent vaccination rate, it could open up the programme to others, as vaccine supplies and capacity will not be constrained moving forward.
It was also mentioned in Parliament on Monday that MOH is studying how short-term pass holders can get their vaccinations.
Mr Dinesh also added it is remarkable that Singapore has not used incentives to get people vaccinated, although the authorities "did come close to it at one point".
"I know of certain countries where (those vaccinated) can have a one-day medical leave, and in the US, they give out goodies."
He added: "I felt that it was very important for us to not send the wrong perspective about vaccinations, particularly since the vaccinations are free anyway. And therefore, in fact, there wasn't a need for us to use any forms of incentives."
Mr Dinesh said the country's approach has been to use moral suasion to get people vaccinated, more than any other method.
"Hopefully with non-mRNA vaccines coming on board, that will help to extend its coverage, (for those) who'd still be adopting a wait-and-see approach."
For instance, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) recently approved 11 applications for private hospitals and clinics to import China's Sinopharm vaccine under the Special Access Route.
It was also mentioned in Parliament on Monday that HSA is in the middle of a review of data from China's Sinovac, to see if the vaccine can be included in the country's vaccination programme.
Mr Dinesh said: "There is a reasonable-sized population in our country who are more keen to take vaccinations that are tried and tested, or using less novel technologies, which fits the bill when you look at vaccines such as Sinovac, Sinopharm, Novavax."
The Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines are inactivated vaccines, a traditional form, while Novavax is a protein-based vaccine.
"Unfortunately, Novavax is still in some degree of developmental stages, and it will take some time before it reaches our shores."