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Individuals encouraged to get vaccinated for COVID-19 to provide better protection at 'community level': Gan Kim Yong

Individuals encouraged to get vaccinated for COVID-19 to provide better protection at 'community level': Gan Kim Yong

A healthcare worker prepares to administer a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination exercise at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) in Singapore on Dec 30, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Lee Jia Wen, Ministry of Communications and Information, handout)

SINGAPORE: Individuals should get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19 infection and "for better protection for the whole (of) society”, said Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong. 

“While vaccination will remain voluntary, we do want to strongly encourage Singaporeans to get vaccinated when their turn comes,” said Mr Gan, speaking to reporters at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) on Wednesday (Dec 30). 

The vaccination will protect each individual from COVID-19 infection, he added. “But at the society level, the community level, if more Singaporeans are vaccinated, it will provide better protection for the whole (of) society.” 

READ: NCID nurse becomes first person in Singapore to receive COVID-19 vaccine

A total of 40 NCID healthcare workers were the first people in Singapore to receive the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination earlier on Wednesday. They will return on Jan 20, 2021 for the second dose of the vaccine. 

The remaining NCID staff will be progressively vaccinated, alongside National Healthcare Group management and staff from January, said NCID in a fact sheet on Wednesday. 

Responding to questions on vaccinations for Cabinet members, Mr Gan said the ministry is "working out the plans" to ensure "continuity" in the Cabinet by getting members vaccinated in different groups.

He stressed, however, that healthcare workers will remain the top priority for vaccination. 

With more people vaccinated and protected against COVID-19 infection, this will also allow community and economic activities in Singapore to return to normal as soon as possible, said Mr Gan. 

“It is also important that through vaccination, we are hoping to reduce, to keep the number of infections low. This will help to preserve healthcare capacity.

All of us know that our healthcare workers have been working very hard over the last few months ... And we can do our part, by getting vaccinated, so that we can reduce the risk of infection and thereby reducing the load on our healthcare workers," he said. 

“When our turn comes, I can assure you that both PM and myself will be among the first to step forward to be vaccinated,” Mr Gan also said, adding that more details will be shared later. 

READ: 'COVID-19 vaccine gives me assurance I can go home safely to my kids': NCID nurse

Mr Gan said that international travel has ground to a halt because of COVID-19 border controls and effective vaccination would allow many travel routes to be reestablished, connecting Singapore to the rest of the world.

But relaxing the travel restrictions also “depends on multiple factors”, not just vaccination, said the health minister, citing safe management measures in the destination countries.

“Vaccination alone will not allow you to just simply open up and forget about all the safe distancing measures,” he said, adding that decisions will be made on a case-by-case or country-by-country basis. 

“(This is) depending on the countries they want to go to and depending on whether there is a high prevalence of cases in those areas or whether the precaution measures in those areas are adequate.”

READ: COVID-19: Government accepts committee's recommendations on vaccine strategy, to begin vaccinating healthcare workers from Dec 30

The vaccine will be extended to healthcare workers in other public health institutions, including private hospitals, in the next few weeks and months, said Mr Gan. Coverage will also be extended to priority groups, including frontline workers and senior citizens, starting with those aged 70 and above. 

It will then be progressively extended to the rest of the population. The Government aims to complete the vaccine coverage by the end of 2021, he added. 

“We want to reassure our Singaporeans that our priority over the next few months is to ensure that the vaccines that we use are safe and effective, and that we are able to roll out this programme to the whole population smoothly and in an orderly manner.” 

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Source: CNA/hw

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