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Singapore sets up vaccine expert committee, may not have only one vaccine

Lim Hui Jie
Lim Hui Jie • 4 min read
Singapore sets up vaccine expert committee, may not have only one vaccine
An expert committee has been set up by MOH to advise and assess the efficacy and safety of Covid-19 vaccines.
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An expert committee has been set up by Singapore’s Ministry of Health to advise and assess the efficacy and safety of Covid-19 vaccines.

The committee was formed last month, and this comes as American company Pfizer claimed its experimental Covid-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective. Pfizer also expects to seek US authorisation this month for emergency use of the vaccine.

Speaking at the Multi-Ministry Task Force (MTF) press conference on Nov 10, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong revealed the committee will comprise experts in infectious diseases, immunology and other relevant fields.

The committee will “closely monitor” vaccine clinical trials data and recommend vaccination approaches for different groups of people. More information on the committee will be shared soon.

Singapore Director of Medical Services Kenneth Mak said while a vaccine is an “important tool” against Covid-19, it may not be a “silver bullet that can end the pandemic”.

In a press release, MOH said there are various Covid-19 vaccines currently under development and entering clinical trials globally, and different vaccinations may confer varying degrees of protection.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in view of the expected global demand, Singapore has further broadened and diversified its vaccine portfolio directly with a number of pharmaceutical companies, so as to improve its chances of securing a suitable vaccine.

While Gan did not disclose the companies or specific number of doses that Singapore has secured, Mak said it is very likely “that we will develop a portfolio of different vaccines that may be relevant and appropriate for different segments of the population.”

Gan added, “depending on the vaccine, some vaccines may be effective for different segments of the population. Some may not be effective for children, some may not be effective for the seniors.”

“Ultimately, the safety of Singaporeans is our top priority. Only vaccines that are assessed to be relatively safe and efficacious, will be approved for use in Singapore, and offered to the relevant population segments when they become available,” Gan highlighted.

See Also: Stock rally stalls as large-scale Covid-19 vaccine study still has hurdles to clear

Move to Phase 3

In the absence of a vaccine, safe management measures will still need to be adhered to, said Gan, so as to enable Singapore to move toward Phase 3 in a safe way.

Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, said that Singaporeans will have to be “mentally prepared” that community cases will increase as Singapore opens up.

“Today, one cryptic case within our community may not have much of a chance to spawn a large cluster. But with a lot more activities within our community, people dining in groups of eight, weddings of larger sizes, places of worship with larger gatherings, events with larger people coming together. With all of these activities, the risk of clusters forming will go up," Wong points out.

He said Singapore must be prepared to expect the number of community cases to go up to the low teens, maybe even to the 20s or 30s.

Wong then noted Singapore must be ready to ensure that even if the local cases in the community were to arise, they do not form large clusters that are out of control.

To do that, he said the country must step up its testing capabilities, and needs to strengthen contact tracing capabilities through the expansion of the SafeEntry and TraceTogether schemes.

Speaking on the take-up rate of Tracetogether, Wong said it was “still below 50%”, lower than the 70% participation benchmark he said was one of the requirements for Singapore to move to Phase 3.

He urged Singaporeans to either download the TraceTogether App or collect their TraceTogether token, and said the distribution of tokens is expected to be completed by mid or end December.

In addition, he said the MTF needs to see continued cooperation and compliance with all the present prevailing safe distancing measures. “So as I said previously, if all the stars are aligned, we might be able to enter phase three, before the end of the year. If not, we will roll over to January or early next year.”

See Also: STI dips slightly on cautious trading despite Phase 3 announcement

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