Singapore Seeks First Vaccination of All Adults by End August
(Bloomberg) -- Singapore will lengthen the time between vaccination doses to six to eight weeks, in an effort to stretch out limited supply that could see its entire adult population receive a first shot by the end of August.
The revised strategy comes amid a new wave of infections that has forced the city-state to return to lockdown-like conditions and caused the cancellation of high-profile initiatives like the World Economic Forum and an air travel bubble with Hong Kong.
The government will also authorize the vaccine in use from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for children as young as 12 years old, the ministry of health said in a statement on Tuesday, making Singapore one of the first places in the world to do so. That move follows approvals including from the U.S. and Canada earlier this month. Limited supply means that the rollout is only just reaching those aged 40 to 44 years old starting Wednesday.
“The fact is, we are constrained by supply,” Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said at a briefing. “We have a steady stream of supply but are constrained by it, so we can only vaccinate as fast as supplies arrive, and we have a lot more demand than supply.”
Singapore is one among a handful of Covid havens that had previously stamped out local transmission, only to see itself in a stop-start cycle of restrictions whenever flareups occurred. These places are now struggling to accelerate their inoculation roll-out in order to permanently reopen their economies, as major western places like the U.S and U.K rapidly normalize. But supply of vaccines, especially the extraordinarily effective mRNA ones, are hard to come by as big, rich economies hoard millions of doses.
Ong said that “if all goes smoothly”, about 4.7 million people will be covered by at least one dose of vaccination “sometime in August”, substantively covering almost all of its eligible population.
As of May 17, close to 2 million people, or more than a third of the 5.7 million population, have gotten their first vaccine dose, the health ministry said. There were 1.4 million people who have completed the full immunization. On Tuesday, Singapore reported 27 new cases of virus in the community, with 11 that are currently unlinked.
‘Stay At Home’
The growing number of Covid-19 infections has forced the country back into lockdown-like conditions it last imposed a year ago, banning dining-in at restaurants and limiting gatherings to two people. It further announced it will stop most in-person school classes this week, after officials said more children may be susceptible to getting infected from the new virus variants.
Moving ahead, the country plans to roll out its vaccination program in five-year age bands, and progressively move to younger age bands. The health ministry said supply of vaccines has been steadily coming in, but remains limited due to high global demand.
“I have confidence that the latest measures that we are putting in place to restrict interactions and movement will have an impact in bringing numbers down,” Lawrence Wong, the minister who co-chairs the virus taskforce, said at the briefing. “But we will only see this materializing one to two weeks later, because of the time lag in these measures.”
Wong said authorities may tighten its virus measures if there’s a need to. In the meantime, he stressed the need for people to stay at home and only go out for essential activities during this period.
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