S'pore on the lookout for more Covid-19 vaccine options: Lawrence Wong

Having more than one approved vaccine provides Singapore with some sort of insurance. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Singapore continues to be on the lookout for more vaccine options even though shipments for the approved vaccines - Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna - are coming in now.

Having more than one approved vaccine provides the country with some sort of insurance as Singapore will not need to rely on a single supplier, Education Minister and co-chair of the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force Lawrence Wong said on Friday (Feb 19) during a visit to the Jalan Besar Community Centre.

A good supply of vaccines will largely determine the rate of the nation's vaccination programme, Mr Wong added.

"We are pushing out the vaccines as soon as we get the supplies, so the pace at which we can proceed with our vaccination programme really is contingent on our supply, more than anything else," he said.

But supply uncertainties remain given high global demand, Mr Wong cautioned. He cited an example earlier this year, where there were delays in the supplies of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech.

"It wasn't so much because of export restrictions but because there has been a surge in global demand for these vaccines, and the company just has had to take more time to ramp up manufacturing capacity," Mr Wong said.

Supply bottlenecks could also be caused by a stoppage in the manufacturing plant, or an export restriction, or some other logistical issues, he noted.

"But we are happy now that we not only have Pfizer, we also have Moderna, so we have some diversification benefits. The supplies have come in in February, and we are expecting another supply coming through every month," Mr Wong said.

However, if something were to happen that causes not just one but even both supplies of Pfizer and Moderna to be disrupted, in the worst-case scenario, Singapore might have no choice but to either apply some brakes to the vaccine programme, or even temporarily stop it, use up all the existing supplies, and only continue when new supplies come in, Mr Wong said.

Apart from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Singapore has also made advanced purchase agreements with China's Sinovac vaccine. However, Sinovac is yet to be approved as more data is still pending for the Health Sciences Authority to ensure it is safe because it is authorised for use, Mr Wong added.

"Beyond Sinovac, we continue to look at other options, and so that search for other vaccine options continues. We are not stopping at just three vaccines."

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