SINGAPORE: COVID-19 vaccinations have begun for Singapore Armed Forces personnel, with plans in place to vaccinate the majority of SAF's active forces by the middle of this year, said the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) in a Facebook post on Thursday (Jan 21).
Active forces include regulars and full-time national servicemen, but not operationally ready national servicemen.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Senior Minister of State for Defence Zaqy Mohamad joined an initial batch of SAF personnel who received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Jan 14.
They will get their second dose 21 days later.
This initial phase of the vaccination programme for SAF medical and COVID-19 frontline personnel is expected to be completed within six weeks, inclusive of the second dose.
According to MINDEF, Dr Ng said the next group in line will be personnel in critical units - including those in maritime security, air defence and counter-terrorism - before moving on to the rest of the SAF.
"Dr Ng shared that plans are underway to get the bulk of the SAF’s active forces vaccinated by the middle of this year," MINDEF said.
"All active SAF service personnel who are medically eligible to be vaccinated will be able to receive the vaccination."
MINDEF added that wide vaccination coverage in the SAF will protect its servicemen and women, support its operational readiness and enable the wider resumption of training and force generation activities.
The SAF has gradually resumed activities such as in-camp training and the individual physical proficiency test, although some overseas exercises remain suspended.
The ministry quoted Dr Ng as saying that the jab was "smooth and painless".
“We want to do (the vaccination) safely and with the experience that I’ve had, they’ve worked out the processes very well," he was quoted as saying.
In a separate Facebook post on Thursday, Dr Ng said the aim is to complete the vaccinations by mid this year, "if supplies of vaccines arrive as planned".
"Vaccinations to achieve herd immunity will provide assurance for our soldiers in critical units to function safely and effectively while performing their security duties," he said.
"When accomplished, we can resume full training and operations," he added.
Singapore began its COVID-19 vaccination exercise on Dec 30, with healthcare workers at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases the first to get the shots.
Singapore is prioritising vaccinations for groups that are most at risk, consistent with World Health Organization guidelines.
Vaccinations have been offered to healthcare workers and staff members across all public and private healthcare institutions, and are being rolled out for people working in the community care sector.
Aside from frontline workers at border entry points, Singapore has also started vaccinating those involved in the COVID-19 response, such as swabbers and workers in quarantine and community care facilities.
Vaccinations for the elderly will begin later this month, beginning with seniors aged 70 and above.
The vaccine is free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents, including long-term work permit holders.
Vaccinations are voluntary, although the Government has encouraged all medically eligible residents to come forward and get vaccinated.