Govt won't ration vaccine supplies for those who adopt wait-&-see attitude: Lawrence Wong

The vaccines will be rolled out to those who want them as soon as possible.

Ashley Tan | January 21, 2021, 06:30 PM

In the coming year, the Singapore government's biggest priority with regards to the Covid-19 pandemic will be rolling out the vaccines to the masses as soon as possible.

Co-chairs of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce Lawrence Wong and Gan Kim Yong compared Covid-19 to a marathon.

Both Gan and Wong urged Singaporeans not to become complacent.

Both ministers also made clear their stance on those who prefer to wait for others to take the shot first — that the government will not be waiting for them.

Felt "perfectly fine" after vaccination

These statements were made during an interview Wong and Gan had with the media on Jan. 19.

In response to a media question about how 34 per cent of Singaporeans remained hesitant about taking the vaccine — based on a YouGov survey — Gan acknowledged these concerns about the new vaccines.

However, he said this could also be an opportunity for the government to ramp up their public education efforts on vaccinations, particularly for seniors in Singapore.

As seniors more often remain cooped up at home, Gan said that vaccinating those within this demographic would have to be done the hard way — by doing door to door, explaining and making the case for vaccinations.

Gan mentioned that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Wong and himself had already been vaccinated as a show of confidence to the Singapore population.

When asked how they felt after their own vaccinations, Wong immediately quipped "I feel perfectly fine!".

Both men then chuckled and commented that they both had sore arms for a day after.

Photo by Andrew Wong

Vaccines will be rolled out ASAP

However, a lot more still has to be done to convince those who have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, Gan said.

This attitude has perhaps been bolstered by the misconception that the vaccine is not necessary due to the relatively low number of community cases in Singapore.

"But you must remember that the rest of the world is still burning up. There are new cases everyday and new records being set," Gan said.

Wong and Gan made clear however, that the government will not hold back its vaccination efforts for those who hesitate.

Wong said:

"Our philosophy in rolling out the vaccinations is to push out whatever supplies of vaccines we have as soon as possible.

We are not holding back [our] supply to wait for people who are holding back [themselves]. We are not going to reserve some supply for you until you decide to take [the vaccination] up."

Wong added that those who choose to wait and make their decision to take the vaccine later on "must accept the consequences" that there might not be a ready supply of vaccines all the time, as vaccines would be given out to those who are willing immediately.

"We are not trying to hold back or ration the supply. It's not in Singapore's interest to do that," Wong said.

Measures might be eased if more people are vaccinated

In response to a question on whether stringent restrictions would be implemented on those who are unvaccinated, and if those who are unvaccinated by choice would be differentiated, Wong explained that the situation was not that simple.

It would be hard to differentiate between those who choose not to take the vaccine, and those who are unable to take the vaccine due to medical reasons, he said.

In any case, restrictions such as safe management measures would still be in place for some time after the vaccinations.

Wong did mention however, that there might be potential easing of certain measures for individuals who have been vaccinated.

Both Wong and Gan extolled on the potential benefits vaccines can hold for the future as well.

"At some point in time, we need to open up more and vaccinations will help us get there faster," Gan said.

Wong also acknowledged that while studies are ongoing to determine the extent to which the vaccine can reduce the transmission of the virus, positive results could equate to various advantages for those in Singapore.

"But if the data and evidence show that transmission risks are reduced, you can expect that for somebody who wants to travel [and who is vaccinated], then potentially the Stay-Home Notice requirement can be reduced or even eliminated."

People who are subject to regular testing in their line of work may even see testing frequency or requirements reduced or eliminated, Wong added.

The government would even consider relaxing safe management measures should Singapore have "lots of people getting vaccinated".

"Additional motivation for all of us who want to step forward and get ourselves vaccinated," Wong said.

Top photo from Andrew Wong and MCI