A group of top Singapore health experts backed the government’s move to approve the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s coronavirus vaccine after it conducted an independent review of clinical data on its safety and efficacy.
The vaccine demonstrated a high efficacy rate of 95% and its safety profile is consistent with the high standards set for other registered vaccines used in immunization against other diseases, the committee of experts said in a statement issued by the health ministry on Sunday. It is suitable for use for those aged 16 and above, and is expecting further trial data on other groups, such as pregnant women, the committee said.
The government said separately on Sunday that it’s accepting the committee’s recommendations, and will begin vaccinating health care workers from Dec. 30. The elderly, starting with those aged 70 and above, is targeted to get their shots from February.
“Thereafter we will vaccinate other Singaporeans and long-term residents who are medically eligible for vaccination,” the Ministry of Health said. “Comprehensive vaccination coverage in the population will ensure that our population is protected from Covid-19. This will also indirectly protect those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons.”
The experts had recommended Singapore prioritize health care workers, the elderly and individuals with chronic health illness given the limited supply. Made up of individuals from the city-state’s public universities, government ministries and research centres, the committee was formed in October to give recommendations on Singapore’s vaccination strategy.
Singapore’s first batch of Pfizer and BioNTech shots arrived last week. The Southeast Asian nation has set aside more than $1 billion for vaccines and said there should be enough for its population of about 5.5 million people by the third quarter.
“While Covid-19 vaccination will be voluntary, we strongly encourage everyone who is medically eligible for vaccination to get vaccinated when the vaccine is offered,” the government said. “Vaccination is not a silver bullet that can end the pandemic immediately, but it is a key enabler to getting us back to a safer state of affairs.”
The expert committee also recommended that about 5% of available vaccine stocks at any given point in time be set aside for specific groups of people who work in essential services, such as water and utilities, to ensure that the country can function effectively in case of an outbreak.