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Healthcare workers to get vaccinated from Wednesday

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Seniors aged 70 and above will get vaccinated from February next year

Singapore's Covid-19 vaccination exercise will begin on Wednesday with healthcare workers at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, followed by those from other healthcare institutions in the coming weeks.

Seniors aged 70 and above will get vaccinated from February next year, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a statement yesterday.

This is in line with recommendations by an expert committee that front-line and healthcare workers as well as those most vulnerable to severe complications if they contract Covid-19 should be vaccinated first, the ministry said.

The Government has accepted in full the recommendations submitted by the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination last Thursday on Singapore's overall vaccine strategy, it added.

Public healthcare institutions and private hospitals are to arrange for their staff to be vaccinated at their respective premises.

Seniors aged 70 and up will get priority for vaccines as they tend to have worse health outcomes than those aged 60 to 69, MOH said.

Thereafter, MOH will vaccinate other Singaporeans and long-term residents who are eligible.

"Vaccination is not a silver bullet that can end the pandemic immediately, but it is a key enabler to getting us back to a safer state of affairs," MOH said.

Vaccination will complement other "key enablers" such as testing and contact tracing to mitigate any spread and keep community transmission low, it noted, stressing that only vaccines that meet strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness will be used.

The announcement comes as Singapore moves into the third phase of its reopening today, nearly six months after the country exited its circuit breaker period on June 1.

Attractions such as the Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Zoo have geared up for an increase in visitors as capacity limits are raised to 65 per cent of their full operating capacity, up from 50 per cent.

Groups of up to eight people can now gather socially, up from a limit of five, prompting restaurants to make changes to their layouts to accommodate larger groups.

The risk of more imported cases and community spread will increase as Singapore moves into phase three, said MOH. Getting vaccinated "is especially important in the face of reports surfacing globally about more transmissible strains", it added.

The expert committee yesterday released its recommendations, including its assessment that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is suitable for use in people aged 16 and above.

Pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals should not take the vaccine until more information is available, it added.

The committee recommended that everyone living in Singapore who is medically eligible should be vaccinated when vaccines become more widely available, although it should remain voluntary.

Measures such as mask wearing and social distancing should continue, it added, until more information is available on the vaccines' ability to prevent infections.