Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong received his first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, and urged others to take the jabs in a country that has largely brought the pandemic under control.
The 68-year-old shared a video of himself on his official Facebook page being injected in the arm at a local hospital.
Singapore has so far only approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine but has said it has secured enough doses for its 5.7 million population including from other vaccine-makers like Moderna and Sinovac.
“We got vaccinated early to show Singaporeans we are confident that the vaccine is safe and effective,” Lee said in a post accompanying the video, adding that he had been vaccinated alongside the country’s top health official, Kenneth Mak.
The rich island nation did some initial vaccinations of healthcare workers at the end of December. But Lee said broader vaccinations of staff at public healthcare institutions would start on Friday, followed by the elderly next month.
Government studies show nearly 60% of people are willing to be vaccinated, the health ministry has said. But the plans have stirred rare hesitancy among some due to the low risk of infection in Singapore and concern about any possible side effects from rapidly developed vaccines.
Unlike other countries that have embarked on mass vaccination programmes like the United States and Britain, the Southeast Asian island has largely eradicated the disease and has reported only a handful of local cases in recent months.
“Vaccinations are voluntary, but I hope that when it’s your turn, you will go for it,” Lee said, adding that he had been monitored for 30 minutes after the jab for any possible side effects and “felt fine”.
Authorities have said they will consider relaxing travel restrictions for people who have been vaccinated against the disease which has killed around 1.9 million people globally.