Singapore—Gan Kim Yong, the country’s Health Minister, said on Tuesday night (Nov 10) that even when a vaccine for Covid-19 is made available, the Government will probably not be able to, and has no plans to give the vaccine to everyone in Singapore.
Mr Gan, the co-chair of a multi-ministry task force assigned to address the myriad issues stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic, made these remarks at an online briefing of the task force.
“Even with the availability of vaccine, we probably will not be able to vaccinate, or do not intend to vaccinate, our entire population, depending on the nature of the vaccine. And even if we were to vaccinate the entire population, it will take time to do so,” Yahoo Singapore reports him as saying.
The Health Minister explained that there are “multiple factors” that come into play when it comes to vaccine distribution, such as the lack of data concerning the sustainability of the immunity of a particular Covid-19 vaccine.
“Some vaccines may be effective for different segments of the population. Some may not be effective for children, for example, and some may not be effective for seniors,” he added.
He also said that healthcare workers would most likely be first in line to get the vaccine, and then senior citizens, who have shown to suffer from Covid-19 more severely.
Mr Gan also reiterated the importance of maintaining safety distance measures. “In the meantime, it is important to continue to ensure that our safe distancing measure or precautionary measures are in place, and we continue to observe personal hygiene and so on. This will help us to reduce the overall infection rate in Singapore.”
The Ministry of Health (MOH) established an Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination last month made up of specialists in infectious disease, immunology, and other experts in related areas of study. This committee will serve to give advice concerning the safety, effectiveness and suitability of the different Covid vaccines as well as recommendations for the vaccination approach depending on demographics.
The press asked Mr Gan about the S$60 million committed by the Economic Development Board (EDB) for the manufacturing of a vaccine from Arcturus Therapeutics, an American pharmaceutical firm, together with Duke-NUS Medical School, which could be ready by the first quarter of 2021. The EDB has also committed as much as S$235 million additionally for purchasing the vaccine.
The Health Minister said he could not add much more details concerning the deal, as certain contracts are still under negotiation.
Professor Kenneth Mak, the director of medical services of the MOH, said that a “more holistic strategy” for vaccination is in the works.
Yahoo Singapore quotes him as saying, “It’s very likely that we will develop a portfolio of different vaccines that may therefore be relevant and appropriate for different segments of the population.”
There are a number of vaccine candidates in advanced stages of clinical trials under consideration for use in Singapore, he said, adding that the country is in talks with pharmaceutical firms for access to these vaccines.
Prof Mak also talked about recent reports of a vaccine from Pfizer whose early data showed that it is more than 90 per cent effective, but added that caution is needed as more data concerning the vaccines in development is not yet available.
“For example, do vaccines require one single dose, or do they require more than one dose? Will the vaccines provide a long lasting response, or will they have a more short acting response such that there may be a requirement for repeated vaccinations later downstream?” he said. -/TISG