Singapore—Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) asked Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in Parliament on Monday (March 1) if Singapore is earmarking its vaccine donations for Asean countries.
She mentioned the announcement last December that Singapore had made a commitment to donate US$5 million (S$6.65 million) to the COVAX facility, a worldwide initiative to provide equal access to Covid-19 vaccines.
She added that the World Health Organisation head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said donor countries could earmark donations to specific countries.
Dr Balakrishnan said there is a separate “Covid-19 Asean Response Fund, which we have also put money into and that we will use on a needs basis within the ASEAN family.”
He explained the donation of US$5 million donation to COVAX by saying, “If we do not help, the world would become endemic reservoirs for further mutations and for this never-ending curse of Covid-19.”
“The competition to fight for precious vaccine supplies has already given rise to vaccine nationalism,” she said, adding that vaccine multilateralism is necessary for borders to reopen.
Dr Balakrishnan acknowledged that some countries have the resources to afford the vaccines, “and many countries do not”.
But to divide the world on the basis of what nations can afford, “you will actually end up with a more dangerous world because the virus does not respect race, language, religion, socio-economic status, wealth or lack thereof of your country,” he said.
He added that countries with more resources, including Singapore, made commitments to the development of Covid-19 vaccines, which ensured their supply but which would also contribute to the supply of vaccines to less well-off countries.
The minister added that Singapore had been “one of the early birds to actually put real resources down,” a decision he assumed that Parliament, including members from opposition parties, supported.
With regard to the vaccine nationalism mentioned by Ms Lim, Dr Balakrishnan said: “As to vaccine power play, I do not want to get into the details of that but I do want to make one point which, I think, is salient for our local population and it is this — Singapore will make decisions on vaccines on the basis of science and healthcare needs.
We cannot be bought, bullied, intimidated into either approving or disapproving any vaccine.
There will be pressure on us. There will be push and pulls, but we must conduct this just like another example of foreign policy – in a principled manner.”
Last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed that the world must be united in the fight against Covid-19. In a short video, he shared how Singapore is contributing to international efforts, like the COVAX Advance Market Commitment.
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