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SINGAPORE — There is currently no evidence indicating that current COVID-19 vaccines are less effective against the UK coronavirus strain, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Monday (4 January).
Speaking in Parliament to deliver his Minister Statement, Gan said that while the B.1.1.7 strain from the UK does appear to be more transmissible, experts have said that it is unlikely that the virus mutation would impact the effectiveness of current vaccines.
“Vaccine producers such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have also come forward to reassure that their vaccines should protect against the B.1.1.7 variant, and are undertaking studies to formally confirm this. MOH will evaluate the data as it emerges and review our vaccine strategy and border measures accordingly,” said Gan.
His comments come as the UK strain of COVID-19 cases continue to spread around the world including in Singapore.
The strain could be 70 per cent more contagious than previous coronavirus mutations, according to some medical experts. It may have caused half of new COVID-19 cases in England recently.
Apart from Singapore, at least 24 other countries and territories such as the US, India, France, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea have reported cases of the strain.
Singapore confirmed its first such case on 23 December, after a Singaporean female student studying in the UK flew home on 6 December. Another 13 COVID-19 cases have tested preliminarily positive for the new strain.
Singapore began rolling out its vaccinations for local healthcare workers on 30 December and plans to have enough vaccines for the entire population by the third quarter of this year.
The first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Singapore on 21 December. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will not be given to pregnant women, immunocompromised patients, and those under the age of 16 until more data are available.
The Moderna and Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines are expected to arrive in Singapore in the coming months.
Vaccinations are free for all citizens, permanent residents and long-term residents and remain voluntary for all.
Gan also addressed the urgency of the need for Singaporeans and others to get vaccinated, saying the “best time to vaccinate is now”.
“Some may feel that there is no urgency to get vaccinated given the current low number of community cases and the local situation is well under control. We must not be complacent or wait till an outbreak and then rush to be vaccinated,” Gan said.
He added that there have been a few community cases in the last few days, which “shows clearly” that there are hidden cases in Singapore, and that new and more contagious variants are emerging.
“If people wait until an outbreak has happened to get themselves vaccinated, it will be too late, both to protect themselves and to prevent the outbreak in the first place.”
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