Singapore — Those who choose not to take the Covid-19 vaccine may need to go through “more frequent testing”, while those who get vaccinated will receive “tangible benefits”, according to Education Minister Lawrence Wong on Thursday (Jan 7).
Mr Wong, who is also the co-chairman of the Multi-Ministry Task Force on Covid-19, said in a Channel NewsAsia interview, that Covid-19 transmission risk could be significantly reduced if the data on the vaccine validates all hypotheses.
“It may well be that travellers coming back need not serve SHN (Stay-Home Notice) or will serve a shorter SHN. So those will be the benefits of getting a vaccination besides the fact that you are protecting yourself and your loved ones,” said Mr Wong.
“There will be these tangible benefits and those who choose not to be vaccinated, well, then you have to live with more frequent tests, you have to live with quarantine, you have to live with all of these other additional requirements,” he added.
In the interview, Mr Wong explained the rationale behind choosing the vaccine by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac as one of the three vaccines to be used in Singapore.
The Sinovac vaccine is 78 per cent effective in protecting against the coronavirus, according to study results released on Thursday by Brazilian state officials. More than 12,000 health workers in Brazil had participated in the study.
According to Mr Wong, the Government set up an expert panel to look at purchasing the vaccines “as early as April” last year.
“We have to make early bets in order for Singapore to be near the front of the queue for vaccines. And that’s what is happening today.”
However, there is currently no clinical data or “full-fledged information” available from any vaccine company, said Mr Wong.
The race among vaccine manufacturers is at a “very early stage” of having clinical information available. The Multi-Ministry Task Force and experts narrowed down their choice among 35 vaccine candidates before eventually deciding on three — Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac. The decision was based on safety and effectiveness of the vaccine based on preliminary data available.
“And that’s the three that we have made advance purchases for, with the aim of building a diversified portfolio of vaccines that will be safe and effective for use in Singapore,” said Mr Wong.
The Economic Development Board (EDB) disclosed that the vaccine panel made its first advance purchase agreement with Moderna in June 2020 and secured it with a downpayment, reported channelnewsasia.com. Two months later, Singapore purchased the Sinovac vaccine, while engaging in advance talks with Pfizer-BioNTech.
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine first.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loon announced on Dec 15, 2020, that the first shipment would arrive by the end of that month. The other two vaccines are expected to arrive in the coming months.
National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) staff received the first doses of the vaccines on Dec 30, 2020.
Mr Wong highlighted the intention to add to the country’s vaccine portfolio. “That’s our overall approach. It’s not to make a single bet; we know that we’ve made some early bets, some may turn out positive as I think Pfizer has now been authorised, Moderna looks like it’s going to be, it has been approved in America,” he said.
“We are looking at the data, we will await that data, full data from Sinovac, and then the process will continue for other vaccine candidates.” /TISG
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