SINGAPORE — Singapore will commence its COVID-19 vaccination of senior citizens later this month, earlier than the initial announcement of a February rollout.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a media release on Wednesday (13 January) that letters will be sent to them to invite them to book an appointment.
Community care residents and clients will also progressively be vaccinated. Nursing homes have begun engaging their residents and their next-of-kin on the vaccinations.
On Wednesday, Education Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong – the co-chairs of the multi-ministry taskforce for COVID-19 – received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine along with nursing home staff at Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital.
“Towards the end of the month, we will begin the programme for the elderly, where we will invite them to come to the nearest polyclinic, Public Health Preparedness Clinic (PHPC) or vaccination centre on a booking system,” said Wong in a doorstop interview after taking his vaccine dose.
He explained that a booking system is required to avoid a wastage of vaccines, where the jabs are prepared but no one is there to receive them.
“This process will take a bit of time. So, we will also step up our outreach and engagement efforts, particularly to the elderly across all our HDB estates to let them know what this is about, give them more information in different languages, and also to help them with the booking,” Wong said.
Four vaccination centres to be set up this month
Singapore is also setting up four COVID-19 vaccination centres in January, in support of the countrywide vaccination efforts.
MOH said that two centres have started operations, and are located at Changi Airport Terminal 4 and Raffles City Convention Centre. Another two – located at the former Hong Kah Secondary School and Woodlands Galaxy Community Centre – will be ready for operations next week.
“We are on track to have another four vaccination centres by the end of February. More centres across the island are being planned, and will be rolled out in tandem with the arrival of the vaccine shipments,” said the ministry in the media release.
“These centres, together with the polyclinics and selected Public Health Preparedness Clinics, will ensure that every Singaporean and long-term resident in Singapore who is medically eligible can receive their vaccinations conveniently.”
Since 30 December last year, COVID-19 vaccination has begun among healthcare workers across all public and private healthcare institutions, as well as in the community care sector. It has also started among frontline workers at border entry points, as well as those involved in COVID-19 response in quarantine facilities.
MOH said in the media release that, as of Tuesday, more than 6,200 individuals have received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. It added that these numbers are expected to rise substantially in the coming weeks as vaccination operations are being ramped up.
“On Tuesday alone, we vaccinated close to 2,800 individuals, including around 2,500 healthcare workers,” the ministry said.
Sinovac vaccine to go through HSA scrutiny, authorisation: Gan
Meanwhile, Gan said in a doorstop interview after his first vaccine dose that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech will have to go through regulatory scrutiny and authorisation by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) before it can be rolled out to the public.
A news report on Tuesday said that data released from a Brazilian trial showed that the Sinovac vaccine was just 50.4 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infections.
Gan said the Sinovac vaccine has yet to be approved by HSA, which has yet to received official data from the Chinese company. Once the data is obtained, HSA will analyse the data, and Singapore’s COVID-19 Expert Committee will also make its assessment on whether it is suitable for vaccination in the country.
“We will go through the data carefully when it comes, rather than depending on reported numbers. It's better to rely on official data that we receive from Sinovac itself,” he added.
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