Singapore received Asia’s first delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday, capping what the city-state’s premier said had been a “long and arduous” year spent fighting the pandemic.
The trade and finance hub last week joined a handful of other countries around the world, including Britain and the United States, which have approved the jab.
It plans to innoculate its 5.7 million people by the third quarter of 2021, with priority given to health workers, the elderly and the medically vulnerable.
“Delighted to see the first shipment of vaccines arrive in Singapore,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote on Facebook, after a Singapore Airlines flight carrying the vaccines landed from Belgium.
“It’s been a long and arduous year, I hope that this news will give Singaporeans cheer this festive season, and reason to be optimistic for 2021.”
Vaccination in Singapore will be voluntary, but Lee has strongly encouraged people to get take part in the campaign.
The Pfizer vaccine requires a two-shot treatment and must be kept at temperatures below -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit) to work effectively.
Transportation Minister Ong Ye Kung said a local facility was producing four tonnes of dry ice each day to properly refrigerate the goods.
Singapore will further ease social distancing restrictions from December 28 after weeks of barely any local coronavirus infections.
Authorities initially kept Covid-19 in check through rigorous contact tracing but the virus later swept through dormitories housing low-paid migrant workers.
The city has reported more than 58,000 virus infections but a relatively low 29 deaths. Its borders remain closed to most international visitors.