Coronavirus Singapore vaccination

Over 155,000 here have had first dose of vaccine

S'pore will have the capacity to inoculate population by third quarter, but may take till end of the year to do so

Above: Land transport workers going through a registration process before receiving their Covid-19 shots on Jan 25 at the vaccination centre set up at the former Hong Kah Secondary School. Left: Healthcare assistant Nurzawani Mohamad Kamal, 24, from
Above: Land transport workers going through a registration process before receiving their Covid-19 shots on Jan 25 at the vaccination centre set up at the former Hong Kah Secondary School. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMA
Above: Land transport workers going through a registration process before receiving their Covid-19 shots on Jan 25 at the vaccination centre set up at the former Hong Kah Secondary School. Left: Healthcare assistant Nurzawani Mohamad Kamal, 24, from
Above: Healthcare assistant Nurzawani Mohamad Kamal, 24, from Ren Ci @ Bukit Batok Street 52, receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Jan 11. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Above: Land transport workers going through a registration process before receiving their Covid-19 shots on Jan 25 at the vaccination centre set up at the former Hong Kah Secondary School. Left: Healthcare assistant Nurzawani Mohamad Kamal, 24, from
SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR HEALTH JANIL PUTHUCHEARY

More than 155,000 people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as at Sunday, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary told Parliament yesterday.

He said Singapore will have the capacity and capability to have its population vaccinated by the third quarter of this year, although it might take until the end of the year to do so.

Responding to questions from several MPs, Dr Janil also said there is currently no evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine - the only Covid-19 shot Singapore has authorised so far - contributes to an increased risk of death among the elderly.

"Thus, we continue to offer Covid-19 vaccination for seniors," he told the House. "It is important to vaccinate and protect seniors, as Covid-19 infection in the elderly has been observed to result in severe or fatal illness."

A total of 12 MPs filed questions on the roll-out of Singapore's nationwide vaccination programme.

Some, including Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) and Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC), asked for updates on its progress. Others, such as Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Mr Dennis Tan (Hougang), asked about side effects of the vaccine, especially among seniors.

More vaccination centres will be set up in places with a large population, along public transport routes, or in locations that meet both criteria, Dr Janil said. The plan is for each of these centres to be able to administer an estimated 2,000 jabs daily, on average.

Polyclinics and certain public health preparedness clinics will also serve as vaccination sites. Starting yesterday, all 20 polyclinics in Singapore began offering Covid-19 vaccination.

There are also mobile vaccination teams for seniors with mobility issues, Dr Janil said.

On the topic of vaccine safety for seniors, he said the Health Ministry, Health Sciences Authority and Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination have been monitoring international reports.

The Norwegian health authorities and the World Health Organisation's Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety have found no evidence that the Pfizer vaccine contributes to an increased risk of death in the elderly, he noted.

"Nevertheless, the ministry has reiterated to vaccination providers that doctors should review the medical history of seniors carefully to confirm that they are indeed suitable for vaccination, and that they should be monitored closely in the immediate period after a vaccination," he said.

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) had also asked for clarification on when the nationwide vaccine roll-out will be completed.

In response, Dr Janil said it might take up to the end of the year, depending on a combination of factors. These include vaccine supply, as well as the willingness of Singaporeans and long-term residents to be vaccinated.

"Our ability to deliver on this is present, and will be present," he said. "But we hope that the communications, outreach and engagement necessary in order to make this happen is something that members of this House will assist with."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last December that the country will have enough vaccines for everyone in Singapore by the third quarter of this year, if all goes according to plan.

Dr Janil said that although this still holds true, there may be members of the public who require further explanation on why getting vaccinated is the right thing to do, or require further medical screening.

"This process will take some time," he said.

Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) asked how the European Union's decision to tighten exports of vaccines manufactured in Europe would affect Singapore's vaccination roll-out.

He also asked if Singapore will, at some point, consider producing vaccines here to avoid these issues.

Dr Janil said there are no plans to change Singapore's vaccine roll-out targets, adding that the specifics of its arrangements are confidential.

On Singapore's plans for vaccine production, he said: "It's indeed something that I'm sure will be explored, but ultimately, it comes down to the licensure of the specific vaccine that's demonstrated to be safe and effective for our population."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2021, with the headline Over 155,000 here have had first dose of vaccine. Subscribe