SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Friday (Jan 8), becoming the first member of Singapore's Cabinet to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Mr Lee received the jab along with Singapore General Hospital (SGH) staff at the official launch of vaccinations for healthcare workers.
Public healthcare institutions, including hospitals and polyclinics, will start vaccinations for their staff on Friday. SGH estimated about 90 of its employees will get vaccinated on the first day.
The official roll out comes after a small-scale test run at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, where 40 employees received their jabs on Dec 30.
Speaking to reporters at SGH, Mr Lee said he was happy to see the start of inoculations for healthcare and frontline workers.
"I took the opportunity to have my own jab this morning and now I'm done – 30 minutes waited, nothing happened," he said.
"I've got my card, and the appointment to come back in three weeks' time. It's painless, it's effective and it's important."
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Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said earlier that plans for the Cabinet to get vaccinated in batches were in the works.
The Health Ministry’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak, who is part of the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19, also received his first dose of the vaccine on Friday.
“My Cabinet colleagues and I, including the older ones, will be getting ourselves vaccinated early. This is to show you, especially seniors like me, that we believe the vaccines are safe,” Mr Lee said in a televised national address last month.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved by Singapore late last year and the first shipment arrived on Dec 21. The vaccine requires two doses taken 21 days apart, and it will take up to 14 more days after the second dose to achieve maximum protection against the virus.
Vaccinations for the elderly and those at greater risk of severe COVID-19 will start in February, beginning with seniors aged 70 and above. Vaccinations will be free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents in Singapore.
After he received his jab on Friday, Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to get inoculated when they can. He said there are "ample vaccines coming in" as Singapore ordered the vaccines early.
"It will make us safer, and it will make you and your loved ones safer. So please take it when you can," he said.