Singapore to get first COVID-19 vaccine in late Dec, Pfizer-BioNTech chosen: PM Lee Hsien Loong

SINGAPORE — The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been chosen as the first to be used in Singapore to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, with the initial shipment expected to arrive in late December, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday (14 December).

Lee made the announcement in a 15-minute national broadcast just before a virtual media conference to be chaired by the ministerial task force on COVID-19.

This makes Singapore one of the first countries to obtain the Pfizer vaccine, he said, adding that the government also expects other vaccines to arrive here in the coming months.

“If all goes according to plan, we will have enough vaccines for everyone in Singapore by the third quarter of 2021,” Lee said.

Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
(PHOTO: Reuters)

Lee also said the government has been working to secure COVID-19 vaccines, adding that it was not a “simple exercise” as more than 200 vaccine candidates were under development, and not all would succeed.

Among the efforts, the government held talks with the pharmaceutical companies early, and identified the promising candidates likely to come to production sooner.

It also placed “multiple bets” by signing advance purchase agreements for the most promising candidates, including with Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Sinovac, setting aside more than $1 billion for the purpose, Lee said.

Vaccinations would be free and given on a voluntary basis for Singaporeans and long-term residents.

“My colleagues and I, including the older ones, will be getting ourselves vaccinated early. This is to show you, especially seniors like me, that we believe the vaccines are safe,” said Lee.

“I strongly encourage you to get vaccinated too, when the vaccine is offered to you. Because when you get yourself vaccinated, you are not just protecting yourself.”

Health Sciences Authority’s recommendations

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said in a press release on Monday that the vaccination regime submitted by Pfizer-BioNTech requires two doses of vaccine to be administered 21 days apart, in individuals aged 16 years and above.

“HSA’s review of the available clinical data found that the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the known risks. The vaccine demonstrated a high vaccine efficacy of 95 per cent. Based on the data accrued to-date, the safety profile of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was generally consistent with other registered vaccines,” the agency said.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was granted interim authorisation under the Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR). This regulatory pathway facilitates access to critical novel vaccines, medicines and medical devices during a pandemic such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, HSA said.

Using PSAR, HSA can start evaluating new vaccines, medicines and medical devices from the early stages of clinical studies, as and when real-time data is submitted by companies, instead of waiting for the full data set to be submitted before starting evaluation.

HSA said this pathway gives it more time to review the submitted data while companies continue with further clinical trials and development concurrently.

“As with other new vaccines, the data submitted by Pfizer-BioNTech was robustly and thoroughly reviewed by HSA’s regulators, and international scientific standards were applied during the evaluation.”

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