BOOSTING COVID-19 DEFENCES

55,000 have received both doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

A total of 55,000 people have received both their doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first Covid-19 vaccine to be approved for use here.

This should provide them with up to 95 per cent protection - five weeks from their first jab - against severe illness should they be infected by the coronavirus.

They are among the 250,000 people here, including healthcare workers and other front-liners, who have been vaccinated so far.

Announcing these numbers in Parliament yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat strongly encouraged those who are eligible to take the vaccine when their turn comes.

Some people - such as those who are immuno-compromised, including transplant recipients - should not get the vaccine.

At the same time, Mr Heng said: "We must continue to contain the spread of the virus, by keeping up our precautionary measures and our multi-layered defence system of contact tracing, testing and safe distancing."

About $1 billion of the $11 billion set aside for public health will be used for the vaccination programme, as well as for therapeutics to treat those who get infected.

Singapore has purchased Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Sinovac. The first two have been approved for use here.

The first batch of vaccine doses arrived on Dec 21. Slightly more than a week later, on Dec 30, healthcare workers at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases became the first people here to get vaccinated. But the actual national drive started on Jan 8, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong received the first of two injections. He has since received his second jab that will confer the maximum protection from the vaccine.

Following the successful pilot programme for seniors in Ang Mo Kio and Tanjong Pagar, people aged 70 years and older will start getting their vaccinations from next Monday. The entire vaccination exercise is expected to be completed by September.

The vaccine is free for everyone living in Singapore, hence the $1 billion set aside for it by Mr Heng.

Salma Khalik

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2021, with the headline '55,000 have received both doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine'. Subscribe