Singapore — The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines for Singapore arrived in the country on Monday evening (Dec 21).

The city-state is the first country in Asia to take in the vaccine, which has been developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The vaccines arrived on a Singapore Airlines (SIA) B747-400 freighter (SQ7979), which left Brussels in Belgium on Sunday landed at Singapore Changi Airport at 7.36 pm on Monday, according to a report on channelnewsasia.

Credit- Ministry of Communications and Information

The vaccine has been developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech, and has an efficacy rate of 95 per cent. However, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and those under the age of 16 should not receive the vaccine as the safety and efficacy data on these groups are not yet available.

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said that some people may experience side-effects such as pain, redness, swelling at the injection site, as well as fatigue, headache and muscle ache after vaccination.

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It said that, while not everyone will experience these side-effects, they are “common and expected” as part of the body’s natural response to build immunity against Covid-19.

Credit- Ministry of Health

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which uses mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) technology, needs to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius, which presents some logistical challenges.

As such, after the vaccines were received, they were sent for storage and ground transportation at the SATS cold-chain facility.

During his most recent update on the Covid-19 situation on Dec 14, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the HSA had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for pandemic use.

He added that the committee of doctors and experts that the Ministry of Health had set up to recommend a vaccination strategy for the country proposed that the entire adult population should be vaccinated but to make vaccinations voluntary.

“First priority will be given to those who are at greatest risk: Healthcare workers and frontline personnel, as well as the elderly and vulnerable. Thereafter, the committee proposes to progressively vaccinate the rest of the population, and to cover everyone who wants a vaccination by the end of next year,” Mr Lee said.

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He added: “The Government has accepted these recommendations. I have personal confidence in our experts. My 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.”

“We have decided to make vaccinations free for all Singaporeans, and for all long-term residents who are currently here.”

SIA said it had conducted a successful trial on Dec 19 on the same freighter flight route using thermal shippers, which are also known as cool boxes. The internal temperature of each box was actively tracked throughout the delivery, added the channelnewsasia report. /TISG