SINGAPORE - The process of vaccinating Singaporeans against Covid-19 will take some time, as it is challenging and must be carried out safely and carefully, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.
During a visit to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) on Wednesday (Dec 30), Mr Gan said he had met the centre's management team to get a better understanding of the challenges they face and how the vaccination exercise can be carried out smoothly.
Healthcare workers at NCID were among the first Singaporeans to receive the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Wednesday morning.
This came just over a week after the first batch of the vaccines arrived here from Brussels, Belgium, last Monday evening.
Asked why it took a week before the first jabs were administered, Mr Gan said the process of preparing the vaccine and ensuring the right people receive it has been challenging.
He noted that the vaccine must be administered within a short time once it is removed from low-temperature storage.
The vaccine can be stored at minus 80 deg C for up to six months or at 2 to 8 deg C - the temperature of a common refrigerator - for about five days.
"All the processes have to be smoothened and also we need to make sure that there's no mistakes," stressed the minister.
"For example, the person who is receiving the vaccination, the identity has to be verified, whether he has a pre-existing condition, whether he has allergy. All this has to be taken into consideration."
More than 30 NCID staff members, including clinical, nursing, allied health, ancillary and administration staff, were vaccinated on Wednesday. They will be given a second dose on Jan 20, and the remaining NCID staff will get their jabs progressively.
The National Healthcare Group (NHG) management and staff will be vaccinated from January.
Other healthcare workers on the front line are also being rostered for vaccination, with public healthcare institutions and private hospitals arranging for their staff to be vaccinated at their respective premises.
For the general public, Singapore residents aged 70 and older will receive their jabs from February, followed by other Singaporeans and long-term residents who are medically eligible.
Mr Gan noted that during the administration of the first rounds of the vaccine at NCID on Wednesday, the healthcare workers involved were very cautious and would "check and double-check to make sure that they follow the procedures carefully".
He added that it is better to do it carefully instead of rushing to roll out the vaccine en masse, only to discover unforeseen difficulties and challenges.
"We advise the team to do it carefully, do it slowly. Make sure you smoothen the process and are familiar with the process before you roll out in a big volume. I think doing it this way is safer," said Mr Gan.