Singapore: Singapore has received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, making it the first country in Asia to take the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as it plans to inoculate its 5.7 million people by the third quarter of 2021.
The first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine landed in Singapore on Monday, The Straits Times reported.
Singapore is one of the first few countries to approve and get COVID-19 vaccines. Others that have approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are Britain, the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Bahrain and Qatar. Britain, the US and Canada are already carrying out vaccination exercises.
The vaccines were received by Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung and were taken to a cold-chain facility for storage and ground transportation. Ong assured that the city-state has the capabilities to make sure the process is secure.
Singapore also wants to become a COVID-19 vaccine distribution hub for the region, Ong said. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on December 14 that Singapore authorities had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for pandemic use and that the first shipment would arrive by end-December.
The vaccine shipment comes a week before Singapore is set to go into Phase 3 of its reopening on December 28.
Lee said on Monday evening he was "delighted" to see the successful arrival of the first shipment, describing it as a "welcome 'present' that we've all been looking forward to".
In a Facebook post, he thanked the agencies and workers that made the shipment possible, and said the multi-ministry task force handling the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore would announce details of the roll-out "in due course".
"It's been a long and arduous year. I hope that this news will give Singaporeans cheer this festive season, and reason to be optimistic for 2021," he said.
Lee has said that he and his Cabinet colleagues will be getting themselves vaccinated early to show everyone that they believe the vaccines are safe. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, two doses are required, to be administered 21 days apart.
Other vaccinations are also expected to arrive in Singapore in the coming months, and the country " will have enough vaccines for everyone" by the third quarter of 2021.
Vaccinations in Singapore will be voluntary and priority will be given to those at greatest risk, such as frontline and healthcare workers, as well as the elderly and the vulnerable, Lee had said.
Thereafter, an Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination has proposed to progressively vaccinate the rest of the population and to cover everyone who wants a vaccination by the end of 2021. Vaccinations will be free for all Singaporeans as well as long-term residents currently in Singapore.