As a small market we lack negotiating power. This would normally push us down the queue for delivery, Mr Ong said. The situation was worsened by supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, he added.
But time was of essence.
An inter-agency workgroup chaired by the Head of Civil Service was set up to develop our vaccine procurement approach. They comprised senior officials from agencies such as Prime Minister’s Office Singapore, MOH, A*STAR, Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and Economic Development Board (EDB).
The workgroup recommended a portfolio approach to buy vaccines – don’t put all our bets on one vaccine but buy a selected number of vaccines across different technology platforms. This includes both mRNA and non-mRNA vaccines.
Why the need to over-procure?
We had placed our bets on several vaccines to ensure that at least some of them would work. And if one does not work, we had to make sure that the other one had enough volume to cover the whole population.
When it became clear that vaccine protection could wane over time, especially amongst the elderly and that boosters would be needed, we procured additional vaccine doses to administer boosters to the whole population.
Expired vaccines: the price to stave off catastrophic consequences
Because we deliberately over-procured to mitigate the uncertainty of selected vaccine candidate not working, and the possibility of supply chains being disrupted, the result is that there would be spare vaccine stock. These vaccines will eventually expire.
“The two-month Circuit Breaker cost us around $11 billion in terms of GDP loss. And we spent close to another $60 billion over two financial years to cushion the hardship for businesses and workers, not to mention the heartaches and difficulties families had to go through.”
“Without vaccines, we would certainly have had to resort to further Circuit Breakers during the Delta and Omicron waves in late 2021 and throughout 2022. But we did not have to, because we got the vaccines early and they protected us,” said Mr Ong.
Singapore has one of the highest Covid-19 vaccination rates in the world. The overall Covid-19 case fatality rate here is 0.1%. It is one of the lowest in the world compared with the average of about 1% worldwide.