Vaccine hesitancy stirs in nearly COVID-free Singapore

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Singapore is preparing to roll out COVID-19 vaccinations, but the city state’s striking success in controlling the virus is making some question whether they should take the jabs.

In a country where compliance with the authorities is generally high, some Singaporeans fear the potential side effects – even if minimal – are not worth the risk when daily cases are almost zero and fatalities are among the world’s lowest.

“Singapore is doing pretty well,” said Aishwarya Kris, who is in her 40s and does not want to receive a shot.

“I doubt the vaccine will help at all.”

A poll by local newspaper The Straits Times in early December found that 48 percent of respondents said they will get a vaccine when it is available and 34 percent will wait six to 12 months.

But the government is keen to open more of the economy with the help of the vaccine in a country dependent on travel and trade.

“Singapore is a victim of its own success,” said Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases expert at the city’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

To show the vaccine is safe, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 68, said he and his colleagues would be among the early recipients of the shots.

The first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived this week and Singapore expects to have enough vaccines for its 5.7 million people by the third-quarter of 2021.

The first vaccines will be given to priority groups such as health workers in the next month or two, but it will be some time before it is offered to the broader population, said Lawrence Wong, a minister who co-heads Singapore’s virus task force. Vaccinations will be free and voluntary.

“The roll-out to the Singapore population will also take place over several months, depending on factors such as the supply and delivery schedules of the vaccines,” he said.

Al Jazeera

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