Singapore’s Health and Sciences Authority has already approved the coronavirus vaccine developed by US-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German firm BioNTech. The first shipment of the vaccine is expected to arrive in Singapore by end of December.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Monday that Singapore, with a budget of over 1 billion Singapore dollars ($750 million) for vaccines, has placed multiple bets by signing advance purchase agreements with vaccine makers.

“After studying the scientific evidence and clinical trial data, the Health and Sciences Authority has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for pandemic use,” the prime minister said in a televised speech.

“If all goes according to plan, we will have enough vaccines for everyone in Singapore by the third quarter of 2021,” he added.

The leader of the island state clarified that the vaccines will be given on a voluntary basis, and will be free for citizens and long-term residents. He said he and some older Cabinet ministers will be vaccinated early as a demonstration that the vaccines are safe.

Healthcare workers and front-line personnel will be given priority once the first batch of the vaccines arrive. Elderly and other vulnerable people will also be prioritized before the rest of the population.

“Now that vaccines are becoming available, we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore’s expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination said the vaccine won’t be given to pregnant women, immune-compromised persons and those under the age of 16 until more data are available.

HSA said that the authorization of the emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was granted after data submitted demonstrated that the vaccine meets the required safety, efficacy and quality standards. The health authority also said the vaccines’ benefits outweigh the known risks.

PM Lee Hsien Loong

Pfizer Singapore and BioNTech said in a press release on Monday evening that it will deliver doses of the coronavirus vaccine to Singapore through 2021.

Singapore follows the UK and the United States as the first countries to use the vaccines.

Prime Minister Lee further stated that Singapore has been ” working quietly” since early on in the coronavirus pandemic to ensure access to vaccines.

He added that the government also supported local efforts to develop a cure for COVID-19.

This gives Singapore’s own scientists and researchers the opportunity to do cutting edge work. It’s also an insurance that Singapore does not run out of vaccine in case the global supply chain was disrupted.

As of Tuesday, Singapore has recorded 58,325 cases and 29 deaths. Out of the infections, at least 86 are active.

Global health authorities praised Singapore during the first few months of the pandemic, having controlled the spread of coronavirus.

However, cases sprouted among residents of dormitories and apartments, prompting Singapore to impose stricter measures.

“How did we bring things under control? It took a tremendous effort, and some good luck. Our measures were hard for everyone, but they worked. Singaporeans showed resilience and took them in their stride.

Tourism Reopening

The upcoming immunization program coincides with the country’s announcement of the phase three of its tourism reopening, which begin on December 28.

Singapore will ease capacity limits in public places like malls and attractions, and at places of worship.

“One significant change is to allow groups of up to eight to congregate, up from the current maximum of five. So eight people can dine out together, or visit someone’s home. This will make it easier to hold family get-togethers during the festive period,” Prime Minister Lee explained.

The country will also launch a new segregated travel lane for business travelers on short-term stays. The special travel lane will be open to a limited number of business, official and high economic value travelers from all countries, as announced by the Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday.

Applications for this initiative will open in mid-January of 2021.

“We will ensure that strict health and testing protocols are put in place,” ensured Minister   Chan.

The ‘Connect@Singapore’ initiative is aimed at boosting the country’s global reputation and support the eventual economic recovery from the pandemic.

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