Singapore panel recommends maximum level of COVID-19 vaccine coverage

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A panel of experts convened by the Singapore Ministry of Health has recommended that all residents who are medically eligible for COVID-19 vaccination should be admitted as soon as they become available, although vaccination should remain a voluntary option.
The recommendation comes as Singapore's success in fighting the virus raises some questions about whether they should take the bumps. The city-state has reported nearly zero new local cases every day for the past few weeks.
The panel of experts convened in October recommended achieving the highest possible population coverage for COVID-19 vaccination to reduce the overall proportion of the population susceptible to the disease and the likelihood of uncontrolled chains of transmission, said Sunday.
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Singapore approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the first batch of which arrived on December 21st. The vaccine has also been independently reviewed and endorsed by the committee.
Singapore has signed expanded sales agreements and early paid off several vaccine candidates, including those developed by Moderna and Sinovac. It is expected that enough vaccines will be available for every 5.7 million people by the third quarter of 2021.
The government has announced that the vaccines will be distributed free, voluntarily, and first to healthcare workers and the elderly.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Health announced that vaccinations for health care workers would begin on December 30 and that vaccination would begin for the elderly in February, starting with those aged 70 and over.
The country will enter the third phase of reopening on Monday, when it lifts more antivirus restrictions, including allowing groups of eight people of no more than five to gather in public and increasing capacity limits for large gatherings.
"While the current number of cases in the community remains low, the risk of further COVID-19 import and spread in the community will increase as we move into phase three and consider the global situation of COVID-19." said the Ministry of Health, adding it accepted the committee's various recommendations.
(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Jason Neely)

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