Coronavirus: Contact tracing

Singapore likely to vaccinate parts of population from 2021

Those who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus and those at higher risk of getting infected may get priority for vaccination. PHOTO: REUTERS

Singapore will most likely make plans to vaccinate different segments of the population against Covid-19 from next year.

Those who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus and those at higher risk of getting infected, such as healthcare professionals and others in front-line roles, may get priority for vaccination, the Ministry of Health's director of medical services Kenneth Mak told a virtual press conference yesterday.

Details of the prioritisation will be worked out by an expert panel, which will also study the various vaccine options.

"We have convened an expert panel of doctors and scientists to advise us with regard to which of the vaccine candidates will be the most suitable for our setting," said Associate Professor Mak.

"I think many of the vaccine candidates will complete the phase three studies only some time next year, and these results then will be carefully studied and the vaccines then would undergo a registration process before we can bring them into Singapore."

Hence, it is more likely that the multi-ministry task force on tackling Covid-19 will be making plans to vaccinate the different parts of the population from next year, rather than this year, Prof Mak added.

Singapore is looking to procure several different vaccines and has not encountered major obstacles in negotiating with suppliers of vaccines.

Prof Mak explained: "We are tracking very closely the studies that are taking place, the phase three studies for various vaccine candidates, and we are awaiting the results with regard to both efficacy as well as the side effect profile."

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that by engaging multiple suppliers, Singapore will be able to diversify its risk in the event that a vaccine candidate is unsuccessful. The country is also exploring new manufacturers and vaccine candidates, and continues to keep its options open.

Factors such as the price and quantity of the vaccine, efficacy and safety, whether it is suitable only for certain groups, and the possibility of adverse effects will also have to be considered.

Other logistical aspects, such as who should get priority for vaccination (which also depends on the nature of the vaccine) and how to manage distribution, will also be studied by the expert panel.

Mr Gan said: "Some of the adverse effects could only occur over a longer period of time. So we also have to bear in mind the potential risks of these vaccines... It's a balancing between the benefits and the risks in determining what vaccines we should adopt and how we should apply it in the local context."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2020, with the headline Singapore likely to vaccinate parts of population from 2021. Subscribe