COVID-19: Singapore to prioritise vaccination of higher-risk groups, those more likely exposed to virus

COVID-19: Singapore to prioritise vaccination of higher-risk groups, those more likely exposed to virus

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a
FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken Apr 10, 2020. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)

SINGAPORE: Once COVID-19 vaccines become available, Singapore's approach will be to protect those at higher risk or people who may be more likely to be exposed to infection, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Friday (Sep 4).

He was responding to a question from Member of Parliament Murali Pillai on what the Government's strategy is for vaccinating Singaporeans and residents. MP Ang Wei Neng had also asked what the country's COVID-19 vaccine plans are.

In his written reply, Mr Gan said: "Our vaccination approach aims to protect individuals who are more vulnerable or at higher risk from the disease, as well as those who may be more likely exposed to infection, while progressively expanding the coverage of vaccination to our population."

Mr Gan noted that the vaccination strategy and schedule would depend on several factors, including the suitability of different vaccines for different groups, as well as the quantity of vaccines available.

"We will continue to adapt our vaccination strategy as more information from the various vaccine candidates becomes available," he added.

READ: Singapore’s race for a vaccine: Can it be won before second wave of COVID-19 hits?

READ: When can you get a COVID-19 vaccine? Five things you should know

The Government is “closely monitoring” the global progress in developing COVID-19 vaccines, said Mr Gan, adding the authorities are taking “active steps” to ensure that Singapore has “timely access” to an effective and safe vaccine.

Singapore is in discussions with multiple pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines. It is also “actively engaged” in international discussions to “accelerate development and promote fair and equitable access” to COVID-19 vaccines, Mr Gan added.

This includes the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, a multilateral collaboration between the World Health Organization, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and dozens of countries.

It will allow countries to “pool risk and resources to gain access to a portfolio of vaccines from different vaccine developers”, said Mr Gan.

“Ensuring equitable access to vaccines will help to better contain and eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic, not just in Singapore but also globally.”

READ: Widespread COVID-19 vaccinations not expected until mid-2021, says WHO

Mr Gan added that the Government is also supporting local efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. The Duke-NUS Medical School is collaborating with United States biotechnology company Arcturus Therapeutics to develop an mRNA vaccine, he noted.

Phase 1 human clinical trials for the vaccine candidate started in early August.

Apart from such trials, Singapore is building up its vaccine manufacturing capacity to provide “fill-and-finish” contract manufacturing services to vaccine developers and ramp up production of vaccines once they are available, said Mr Gan.

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Source: CNA/cc(gs)

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