Coronavirus Singapore

Vaccines will not be reserved for those who skip their turn

Jabs will go to those next in line, may not be readily available in future for people who wait

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chair the Covid-19 task force, at a media conference on Tuesday to mark one year of the Covid-19 battle in Singapore. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chair the Covid-19 task force, at a media conference on Tuesday to mark one year of the Covid-19 battle in Singapore. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Supplies of the Covid-19 vaccine will not be reserved for people who choose to wait when their turn to get the jab comes, said Mr Lawrence Wong, co-chair of a multi-ministerial task force tackling the pandemic.

Instead, the vaccines will go to whoever is next in line.

This is because Singapore's aim is to get everyone vaccinated as soon as it can, said Mr Wong, who is also Education Minister.

"For those who choose not to take (it) up, it is your choice. But we will roll out and push out the vaccines regardless," he added in a media conference on Tuesday.

"If you want to wait, you must accept the consequence that perhaps if you wait... and you want to take it up later on, we may not have a ready supply."

Singapore's nationwide vaccination effort is now well under way, with priority going to healthcare staff, as well as those working in the aviation and maritime sectors.

It has received several shipments of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, and expects to get more vaccines from other manufacturers in the coming months.

If everything goes according to plan, the country will have enough vaccines for all citizens and long-term residents by the third quarter of this year.

Addressing reporters to mark one year of Singapore's battle with Covid-19, Mr Wong said Singapore sends out each batch of vaccine as soon as it gets a fresh supply.

"We are not trying to hold back or ration the supply. It is not in Singapore's interest to do that," he said. "Our interest is to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible."

Added Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, the task force's other co-chair: "We are not going to reserve some for you if you decide not to be vaccinated."

If the scientific evidence indicates that vaccines significantly reduce the risk of transmission, the Government could make changes to existing rules, Mr Wong said.

For example, the stay-home notice period for travellers might be reduced or eliminated, while workers who currently have to undergo routine testing could have this requirement reduced.

Singapore might also further relax its safe management measures.

At present, however, it is not yet known by how much the vaccine can reduce the risk of viral transmission, so the tangible and concrete benefits of vaccination - like being able to travel without quarantine - cannot be reaped while the information is still pending, said Mr Wong.

When asked how the Government would convince reluctant Singaporeans to take the vaccine, Mr Gan stressed the importance of public education.

For seniors, the authorities will probably go from house to house, explaining the benefits of getting vaccinated and helping people to make bookings, he said.

Mr Gan urged Singaporeans to think hard about holding back on vaccination.

"Today, our number of cases is low. Some may have the misperception that it is quite safe, so it really doesn't matter," he said.

"But we must remember that the rest of the world is still burning up.

"We still have new cases every day and new records being set almost every other day."

Vaccinations will also help speed up Singapore's progress towards a more substantial reopening, added Mr Gan.

Both ministers were also asked how they felt after getting vaccinated earlier this month.

"I feel perfectly fine," Mr Gan replied. "That is why we are here."

"Kim Yong texted me, 'Is your arm sore?' " Mr Wong added.

"I said: 'Yah, mine is quite sore. So, we both had sore arms. That is all."

 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2021, with the headline 'Vaccines will not be reserved for those who skip their turn'. Subscribe