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Singapore panel recommends maximum level of COVID-19 vaccine coverage

An expert committee convened by Singapore’s health ministry has recommended all residents medically eligible for COVID-19 vaccination to take shots as they become available, although it said vaccination should remain a voluntary option.

The recommendation comes as Singapore’s success in controlling the virus makes some question whether they should take the jabs. The city-state has been reporting almost zero new local cases daily over the last few weeks.

The expert committee, convened in October, recommended achieving as high a level of population coverage for COVID-19 vaccination as possible to reduce the overall proportion of the population that is susceptible to the disease and the likelihood of uncontrolled chains of transmission, a statement on Sunday said.

Singapore has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the first batch of which arrived on Dec. 21. The vaccine was also independently reviewed and backed by the committee.

Singapore has signed advanced purchase agreements and made early downpayments on several vaccine candidates, including those being developed by Moderna and Sinovac. It expects to have enough vaccines for all 5.7 million people by the third quarter of 2021.

The government has said the vaccines will be free, voluntary and given first to healthcare workers and the elderly.

On Sunday, the health ministry said vaccinations for healthcare workers would begin on Dec. 30 and that it aimed to begin vaccinating the elderly, starting with those aged 70 years and above, from February.

The country on Monday will move into its third phase of reopening when it lifts more anti-virus curbs, including allowing groups of eight to congregate in public, up from a limit of five, and increase capacity limits for large gatherings.

“While the current number of cases in the community remains low, the risk for further importation of COVID-19 and community spread will increase as we move into phase three and given the global COVID-19 situation,” the health ministry said, adding that it accepted the committee’s various recommendations.

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