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Singapore Becomes First Country in Asia Pacific to Greenlight Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 Vaccine
On December 14th, Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, stated that his Health Sciences Administration had urgently authorized Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine BNT162b2. With this, Singapore has become the first country in Asia Pacific to approve the vaccine. The first batch of the shipment will arrive in Singapore before the end of December. If everything goes according to plan, the country will receive the vaccine free of charge for Singaporeans and long-term residents in the third quarter of next year.
The Health Sciences Administration stated that the provisional authorization was granted after evaluating the clinical trial data of BNT162b2. The review proved that the vaccine met the required safety, efficacy, and quality standards, and the benefits exceeded the known risks.
A vaccine committee composed of doctors and experts has been established in the country to recommend vaccination strategies. The committee recommends that adults be vaccinated voluntarily, and priority will be given to those in high-risk groups, such as first-line medical staff and the elderly and vulnerable groups. After that, it will gradually vaccinate the rest of the population and cover all people who need to be vaccinated by the end of next year.
The Singaporean government has also accepted the committee’s recommendation. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned: “My cabinet team, including older officials, will be vaccinated as soon as possible. The elderly like me shows that we believe that the vaccine is safe. I also strongly recommend that you also get the vaccine when we provide it. Because you are not only protecting yourself. You are also doing your part to protect others. In the end, the more people we get vaccinated, the more difficult it is for the virus to spread. As a society, all of us will be safer.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Singapore government has been quietly working behind the scenes to ensure access to vaccines. More than 200 vaccine candidates are being developed worldwide, so they started talking with pharmaceutical companies very early to understand the science and identify promising drug candidates and vaccines that may be put into production earlier.
They signed pre-purchase agreements with Moderna, Pfizer, BioNTech, and Sinovac and paid the down payment in advance. Around 1 billion Singapore dollars had been reserved for these candidates. They also planned with vaccine development companies to promote their clinical trials and drug development in Singapore and have attracted some companies to establish vaccine production capabilities. This not only provides Singaporean scientists and researchers with the opportunity to carry out cutting-edge work but also acts as insurance to prevent the destruction of the global supply chain. This way, they have established a diversified portfolio of options to ensure that Singapore ranks at the forefront of the vaccination programs.
Cold Chain Transportation
The COVID-19 vaccine will support Singapore’s recovery in many ways. One of them is that Singapore, as a global aviation hub, plays an important role in global vaccine delivery.
BNT162b2 needs to be stored at a temperature of -70 °C, which requires infrastructure, high standards, experienced and skilled operators, and good connections with many different countries in the entire supply chain. Fortunately, Singapore has a strong cargo handling ecosystem. International logistics companies such as DHL and FedEx have bases in Singapore. The ground handling partners of Singapore Airlines and Changi Airport have been awarded by the International Air Transport Association ( IATA) certification to handle and transport drugs.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned: “We are now stepping up preparations to deal with the large number of vaccines entering and leaving Singapore to help fight COVID-19. We did not come here overnight. We have been planning to create opportunities for ourselves systematically. This cost a lot of money. The investments and plans made in 2015 have established a friendly business environment and expanded our global aviation connections. These long-term investments are now opening red markets.”
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