Singapore — The Ministry of Health (MOH) plans to provide a Covid-19 vaccine to those at higher risk, like the elderly, before expanding coverage once a vaccine becomes available.

It disclosed its preliminary vaccination strategy on Tuesday (Oct 14) in response to a parliamentary question filed by Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh.

The People’s Action Party MP had asked how the Government intends to vaccinate Singaporeans once the Covid-19 vaccine is available and whether it will consider providing free vaccination for all Singaporeans.

He also asked for an update on the progress of the joint development with all established overseas vaccine producers and makers, whether the Government is prepared to have the vaccine produced in Singapore and whether Singaporeans have participated in the clinical trial of the vaccines in development and, if so, what is the progress so far.

The ministry said that the Government is developing a vaccination strategy based on several factors, including the suitability of different vaccines for different population subgroups and the quantity of vaccines available at any point in time.

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It said that it aims to protect individuals who are more vulnerable or at higher risk from the disease, as well as those who may be more likely to be exposed to infection, while progressively expanding the coverage of vaccination to the rest of the population.

As to whether the vaccine can be made free, the MOH said the overall vaccination strategy and the cost of the vaccines will factor into the financing framework and promised to adapt its strategy accordingly as more information from the various vaccine candidates becomes  available.

The ministry also said that Singapore is involved in different vaccine development initiatives in the country. One initiative is the Duke-NUS Medical School collaboration with US biotechnology firm, Arcturus Therapeutics, to develop an mRNA vaccine.

It said that the combined Phase 1 and 2 human clinical trial for this vaccine candidate started in early August at the SingHealth Investigational Medicine Unit (IMU) and about 70 participants have since been recruited. The study is expected to be completed later in the year.

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Separately, the authorities are also building up vaccine manufacturing capacity, which can provide fill-and-finish contract manufacturing services to vaccine developers and ramp up production of vaccines when they are available. /TISG