An expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination has been appointed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to make recommendations to the government on the country’s vaccination strategy, said the Ministry in a statement on Thursday (12 November).
The 14-member committee, which consists of experts in the field of infectious diseases, immunology, and other relevant fields, will be chaired by Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, who is the Senior Advisor to the Director of Medical Services of MOH.
Members of the committee are:
- Dr Cheong Wei Yang, deputy secretary of special projects at MOH;
- Assoc Prof Chong Chia Yin, senior consultant and director at the Division of Medicine at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
- Professor Nicholas Gascoigne from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at NUS;
- Assoc Prof Lim Poh Lian, director of the High-Level Isolation Unit at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID);
- Assoc Prof David Lye, director of the Infectious Diseases Research and Training Office at NCID;
- Assoc Prof Helen Oh, senior consultant at Changi General Hospital;
- Dr Lisa Ooi, vice-president of healthcare and wellness at the Economic Development Board;
- Dr Anuradha Poonepalli, regulatory consultant from the Health Sciences Authority;
- Assoc Prof Ren Ee Chee, principal investigator at the Singapore Immunology Network under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research;
- Prof Laurent Renia, senior principal investigator at the Singapore Immunology Network;
- Dr Benjamin Seet, group chief research officer of the National Healthcare Group;
- Dr Danny Soon, chief executive officer of the Consortium for Clinical Research and Innovation Singapore; and
- Prof Tan Chorh Chuan, chief health scientist at MOH.
MOH said that the committee “will leverage scientific and clinical expertise to assess vaccine candidates, and recommend the appropriate vaccines for use against COVID-19 in Singapore when they become available”.
It will also take into consideration “up-to-date information and assessment of vaccines, closely monitor the global vaccine development landscape, and the stance of authoritative agencies such as the World Health Organization”.
The committee will also assess the safety, efficacy, and suitability of vaccine candidates for different segments of the local population.
It will then make recommendations based on the administration of vaccines to specific segments of the population and the overall vaccine strategy for Singapore.
Convening its first meeting on 13 October, the MOH says that members have met regularly over the past month to discuss profiles of various vaccine candidates and conditions for deployment in Singapore.
Committee chairperson Assoc. Prof Ong said: “Globally, as more vaccine candidates are made available for clinical use, ensuring that vaccines are safe and effective will be a top priority.”
Noting that there are many factors to consider, Assoc. Prof Ong explained that the Committee “will need to closely study the safety and clinical data as they become available, while taking into account our local context, so that we can assess and recommend an appropriate and holistic vaccination strategy that can be put in place for the Singapore population”.
“The safety of Singaporeans is our top priority, and the diverse range of expertise among my colleagues in the Expert Committee will put us in good stead as we deliberate on strategies for the implementation of COVID-19 vaccination in Singapore,” he added.
In its statement, the MOH said that the country has taken steps to secure access to a portfolio of vaccines for the local population amidst expected strong global demand, adding that it is a “strong supporter and active participant” in driving the work of the global COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility.
The ministry added it has also diversified and broadened its COVID-19 vaccine portfolio with a number of pharmaceutical companies, which have vaccine candidates currently in development so as to improve the chances of securing a suitable vaccine for Singapore.