The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that Covid-19 vaccination for seniors started on Feb 22. Seniors aged 70 years and above are receiving personalised letters from MOH. The Ministry says vaccine supply is currently limited. Vaccinations are being rolled out in phases, starting with groups who are at greater risk and need the vaccine most, such as frontline workers and the elderly. Singapore has controlled the spread of Covid within the community, and also in the worker dorms, and most of the reported cases are from inbound travellers.

However, Singapore is still a long way from achieving herd immunity, which is usually defined as around 70% of the population being vaccinated. As at Feb 10, 256,000 doses have been administered to Singaporeans and long term-residents, with 4.5 doses given per 100 people. With the start of the vaccination of the 70s and above age group from Feb 22, the doses per 100 ratio is likely to rise.

To date, Singapore is ahead of its major trading partners in Asia-Pacific with its vaccine roll-out. According to TheEdgeMarkets, Malaysia’s first batch of 312,390 doses of the Pfizer/ BioNtech vaccine arrived in Malaysia on Feb 21, from Singapore, the hub for distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine to Asia-Pacific countries, by air and overland.

Hong Kong announced that it will start its mass vaccination drive from Feb 26 and the vaccination drive will last for six months. A million doses of the Sinovac vaccine were delivered to Hong Kong on Feb 19, with the first batch of Pfizer/BioNtech vaccines to arrive at the end of February. Australia started the vaccination of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine on Feb 22 with its prime minister Scott Morrison receiving his first dose on Feb 21, and New Zealand rolled out its Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine on Feb 20.

SEE:These billionaire fortunes are fading with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout

Get the latest Singapore corporate news stories for FREE

Singapore received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine on Feb 15 this year. Moderna’s vaccine has been granted interim authorisation by the Health Sciences Authority for use in Singapore for those aged 18 and above. On Dec 21, 2020, Singapore received its first batch of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.

Vaccine roll-out has been most efficient in Israel, which is reporting a fall in cases and hospitalisations, indicating that the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine is effective (see table). In fact, Israel signed a deal with Pfizer, announced on Jan 6 this year, to get more vaccines in exchange for studying its population as it gets vaccinated. One of the conditions is for Pfizer to study when herd immunity kicks in during the vaccination roll-out.

In a press briefing on Feb 17, Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser of the Biden Administration, said “Israel is way up there, with 78 doses per 100 people, compared to the United States, which is 16.7 doses per 100 people. We have been hearing and seeing in the press that Israel has a remarkable diminution in cases associated with the efficiency of their vaccine.”

The BBC has reported that Israel has reopened restaurants, gyms, schools and cinemas following a lockdown implemented last December.

According to scientists, the more people who are immune from Covid, including the original strain, the less likely the SARS-CoV2 virus is able to find a host and mutate. Hence the race to get vast segments of the population inoculated as soon as possible in places where Covid has run rampant, such as the US and UK.

At present, US lags the UK (see table) in number of doses given per 100 of population. According to data compiled by Our World in Data, Gibraltar, which has a population of some 33,000 has administered more than 29,000 doses with more than 12,000 of the population receiving two doses.

Despite the relatively slower pace compared to Israel, US and UK, Singapore’s vaccine roll-out remains the fastest in Asia, where major economies such as China (see table) and Taiwan have controlled the spread of Covid.

On Feb 16, during his budget speech, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Kiat said we must learn to live with the virus for some time. Hence, as more Singaporeans, long term residents, and populations in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and the rest of Asia-Pacific get vaccinated, economies can open up and recover. As a result of the vaccine roll-out, companies that have been the most adversely affected such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, the hospitality REITs, and the F&B sector could start to attract investor interest