SINGAPORE: Singapore is "quite proactively" in discussion with vaccine developers, pharmaceutical companies and research institutionsto make sure it can have "early access" to future COVID-19 vaccines, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Friday (Jul 24).
These discussions surround collaboration on research efforts and advanced procurement, said Mr Gan at a press conference held by the COVID-19 task force.
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Director of medical services at the Ministry of Health Associate Professor Kenneth Mak said that Singapore is “extremely interested” in working with pharmaceutical companies and collaborating on an international front “with a view towards being able to gain access to promising vaccine candidates”.
“Once proven that these vaccines are efficacious and safe, it is our intent to bring as many of these vaccine doses into Singapore such that we can benefit our population," he said.
However, Singapore is not "banking" on any particular individual vaccine candidate, he said. Instead, the country has attempted to diversify its approach.
This includes the promotion of research on promising vaccine candidates and to bring them through the required clinical trial stages.
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Assoc Prof Mak said there are pharmaceutical companies that may be keen to produce their vaccines in different parts of the world in order to improve access to these vaccines.
“We hope that some of them may find Singapore attractive enough to consider Singapore as a production base for some of these vaccines,” he said.
Singapore is also working to produce a vaccine here and on the international front, has registered its interest to participate in the COVAX Facility, designed to guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.
Currently, many discussions are in place and many of them remain at quite an “early stage”, Assoc Prof Mak said.
He said it is "premature to make definitive announcements at this stage" about whether or not a particular vaccine would be procured and used, and how it would be distributed.
However, both Mr Gan and Assoc Prof Mak said that a vaccine may only be expected late next year.
While some companies appear to be “leading the pack” by making announcements that they have started Phase 3 trials for their vaccines, there may sometimes be failures “in terms of delivering a safe and effective vaccine”, said Assoc Prof Mak.
“Given the global demand for these vaccines, it may … (be) perhaps towards the end of next year, where we might see vaccines produced in sufficient doses, and available then for procurement and to be delivered into Singapore,” he said.
Singapore continues to work on this space, said Assoc Prof Mak.
“We hope to get a vaccine for Singaporeans to benefit from as soon as is possible. At this stage, we don't know which of the vaccine candidates will be the one most likely to be delivered and brought into Singapore, but we continue to work at making sure we have access to those vaccines,” he said.
Watch the full press conference: