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Singapore begins rollout of Pfizer's vaccine with healthcare workers

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    Agence France-Presse

Singapore   /   Wed, December 30, 2020   /   12:47 pm
Singapore begins rollout of Pfizer's vaccine with healthcare workers Dr. Michelle Chester holds a vial of the Covid-19 vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, on December 14, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York. - The rollout of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, the first to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, ushers in the biggest vaccination effort in US history. More than 299,000 Americans have been killed by the virus, including over 35,000 residents of New York state. (AFP/Mark Lennihan / POOL)

A 46-year-old nurse became the first person in Singapore to receive Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, making the city-state among the first Asian countries to begin an inoculation campaign against the coronavirus.

Sarah Lim, a senior staff nurse at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, was the first of more than 30 staff at the centre who are being vaccinated on Wednesday, the health ministry said. They will return for the second dose of the vaccine on Jan. 20.

"I feel very grateful and thankful for being the first to be vaccinated in Singapore," said Lim, who helps screen suspected COVID-19 cases. In recorded remarks provided by the health ministry, she said she hoped to encourage others to get vaccinated.

Singapore is the first country in Asia to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. It has also signed advance purchase agreements and made early down payments on several other vaccine candidates, including those being developed by Moderna and Sinovac.

It expects to have enough vaccine doses for all 5.7 million people by the third quarter of 2021.

Singapore acted swiftly after the first cases of the virus were reported and although it was blindsided by tens of thousands of cases in migrant workers dormitories, it has reported just a handful of new cases over the last two months. The country has one of the world's lowest COVID-19 fatality rates; only 29 people have died of the virus.

To show the vaccine is safe, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 68, said he and his colleagues would be among the early recipients of the shots. They will be free and voluntary, but the government is encouraging all medically eligible residents to take them.

China is inoculating specific groups of people considered at high risk of infection, such as medical workers and border inspectors, under an emergency use programme started in July. Its vaccines are still in late-stage clinical trials.

In Japan and South Korea, the US military has begun its first wave of COVID-19 vaccinations, prioritising frontline medical workers.

Some Philippine soldiers and cabinet ministers have already received COVID-19 vaccine injections even before regulatory approval.