Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has received the COVID-19 vaccine developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.
Singapore was the first Asian country to receive shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is also being rolled out in the US, UK and European Union.
“[I] was at Singapore General Hospital this morning to take a look at the start of COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers from public healthcare institutions today. I also got my first dose of the jab!” Mr Lee said in a post on his official Facebook account.
“It was quite painless, with the tiny needle and the steady hands of senior staff nurse Fatimah Mohd Shah.
“She’s been with Singapore General Hospital for almost two decades, and put me at ease throughout the vaccination process.”
Mr Lee said he was “happy to report that I feel fine and have no side effects”.
“I am confident that the vaccine is safe and effective,” he said, adding he would return to hospital in three weeks for the second dose.
Singaporean authorities approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in December and began immunising some healthcare professionals at the end of last year.
The South-East Asian country reported 23 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, only two of which were the result of community transmission.
The remainder were “imported cases” the health ministry said.
Singapore has recorded a total of 58,813 coronavirus infections to date — around double that of Australia — but only 29 deaths from the disease.
Australia’s total COVID-19 death toll stands at 909.
“We will have ample vaccines for everyone, so I hope Singaporeans and long-term residents will get vaccinated when your turn comes, and help keep everyone safer,” Mr Lee said.
Much of the city-state of 5.8 million’s coronavirus epidemic has centred on the dormitories of low-paid migrant workers, many of whom are South Asian nationals who work in construction and manufacturing.
The health ministry said in December a “vast majority” of Singapore’s cases were in the dormitories, reporting that 47 per cent of the country’s 323,000 dormitory residents had been infected by COVID-19.
Singapore’s second wave was largely driven by an outbreak among migrant workers, who live in crowded dormitories in conditions ripe for the virus to spread rapidly and dangerously.
Only about 4,000 cases had been recorded outside of the dormitories, it said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has said the vaccine will be made available for free to migrant workers.
“[Foreign workers] will get access to the vaccine on the same terms as our local people, which means it will be free, and the priority will be on the basis of risk and need,” he said.
Ahead of the Pfizer-BioNTech shots’ arrival on a Singapore Airlines flight from Belgium last month, Mr Lee said: “My cabinet colleagues and I, including the older ones, will be getting ourselves vaccinated early.
“This is to show you, especially seniors like me, that we believe the vaccines are safe.”
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