During a national broadcast regarding the post-COVID-19 situation in Singapore on Tuesday (9 June), National Development Minister Lawrence Wong affirmed that the Government will make sure every Singaporean who needs a vaccine will get hold of one at an affordable price, if and when a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
Mr Wong, who is the co-chair for the multi ministry task force, explained that a vaccine is a key solution to fight against COVID-19 in the longer term.
He noted that Singapore’s team is also working on the “massive global effort” with clinician and researchers around the world to develop a vaccine in order to reduce the severity of the disease.
“We have a pharmaceutical industry and research capabilities in biomedical science. Economic Development Board (EDB) is also discussing with pharmaceutical companies to manufacture vaccines in Singapore,” added Mr Wong.
Highlighting that drug and vaccine development is “very challenging work”, he warned that there is “no guarantee” whether the current clinical trials of the drugs will be effective or not, adding that “it will take a long time for any vaccine to be ready and available for mass distribution” despite the intensive international efforts.
Noting that the virus is unlikely to vanish anytime soon, Mr Wong called for Singaporeans to be “realistic and gird ourselves for more challenging times”, while cautioning that the country will be vulnerable for a long time.
“We must therefore adapt to COVID-19, and learn to live with it over the long-term. This does not depend upon Government actions alone. Every one of us – government, businesses and individuals – must do our part,” he asserted.
Earlier on 5 May, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in Parliament that it may still be some time before a vaccine is developed, adding that it is better to focus on the immediate task at hand of dealing with community infection instead of counting on a vaccine.
“It’s still very early days. I think there are a lot of news, media report about progress made. In fact, there is progress made. But from here to testing to eventually being approved for use by population, I think that is still some way off,” noted the Minister, in response to a question from Workers Party’s (WP) Non-constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera.
Acknowledging that Singapore has been involved in some of the collaborative research works for a COVID-19 vaccine, Mr Gan however, noted, “We are tapped into the progress and we hope that the vaccines will come out soon but I think it will still take some time. Better for us to focus on the immediate task that we need to address.”
It was reported that Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore and United States-based Arcturus Therapeutics have joined hands and are now carrying out pre-clinical studies on a vaccine candidate that the team has created. The clinical trials were said to begin by August this year.
Once the vaccine is created, Singapore will own its rights here, while the US firm has the liberty to market the product around the world.
Netizens expressed their dissatisfaction on the ambiguous message delivered by the Minister
Many of them questioned the “affordable price” that was mentioned by Mr Wong, given that the price range for “affordable price” could be different for everyone, especially the senior citizens who are not working.
A number of netizens also raised their eyebrows on the eligibility criteria for those who need the vaccine, questioning how will the Government identify those who are in need of the vaccine.
Once the vaccine is available, a few of them recommended that it goes to the vulnerable groups first – such as the elderly people and those with chronic illness.
Meanwhile, a handful of netizens commented that the Government ought to make the vaccine mandatory and free for all Singaporeans.
Many others were also wondering why the Government has been providing free treatment to the migrant workers while Singaporeans are required to pay for the vaccine.