Singapore Aims to Vaccinate Population for Covid-19 by End-2021

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Singapore Aims to Vaccinate Population for Covid-19 by End-2021

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Monday that Singapore expects to have the vaccine doses it needs from various suppliers by the third quarter of 2021.

Photo: edgar su/Reuters

SINGAPORE—This city-state aims to inoculate all those among its population who want to receive Covid-19 shots by the end of next year, with its first shipment of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE expected to arrive later this month.

The country of around 5.7 million people fought relatively large outbreaks earlier this year but has since brought transmission under control. Less than 20 locally transmitted infections have been recorded since the start of November, with an overall total of more than 58,000 cases and 29 deaths to date.

Immunizing its small population will likely take about a year from now as vaccine manufacturers ramp up production, with only a limited supply available over the next few months and some logistical challenges yet to be ironed out. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech Monday, in which he announced the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s approval by the country’s health authority, that Singapore expects to have the vaccine doses it needs from various suppliers by the third quarter of 2021.

Singapore also has advance purchase agreements with U.S. company Moderna Inc. and Sinovac Biotech Ltd., a leading Covid-19 vaccine developer in China. Batches from the three companies will arrive over the next year and Mr. Lee urged Singaporeans to take the vaccines, which will be free.

As states and hospitals in the U.S. race to roll out the first Covid-19 vaccines, WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez hears from a hospital administrator and immunization expert about the logistical challenges involved in this first phase of the vaccination process. Photo: Victoria Jones/Zuma Press

As in most places that have declared their vaccine plans, first priority will be given to health-care workers and vulnerable groups in terms of age and health, before the shots are rolled out to the broader population, officials said. “The more of us are vaccinated, the harder it will be for the virus to spread, and the safer we will all be as a society,” Mr. Lee said.

Pfizer has begun shipping its Covid-19 vaccine in the U.S. after its shot, made with partner BioNTech, gained the federal government’s approval Friday. Sufficient doses won’t be manufactured for most Americans to get vaccinated before spring or summer.

Singapore officials hope vaccinations will help re-energize the country’s economy and facilitate travel, which has collapsed. In a win for the city-state and its pandemic response, the World Economic Forum, which draws business, political and academic leaders from around the globe, will be held in Singapore in May 2021 rather than its usual venue in the Swiss alpine town of Davos.

An aviation hub, Singapore expects its airport to become a crucial node for transporting vaccines, some of which need to be stored at ultralow temperatures and require special infrastructure. Officials said the country is gearing up to handle large volumes of vaccines into and through Singapore.

Mr. Lee on Monday announced a further easing of Covid-19 restrictions for residents before the end of the year, though the government will continue to maintain strictly-enforced limits on social gatherings, mandate mask-wearing in settings outside the home and continue digital check-ins at restaurants, shops, parks and other places.

The changes, effective from Dec. 28, include increasing the number of people who can dine out together and visit someone’s home from five to eight, and raising capacity at places of worship and entertainment events.

The Path to Vaccination

Write to Niharika Mandhana at niharika.mandhana@wsj.com and Feliz Solomon at feliz.solomon@wsj.com

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