By TWC2 volunteer Lelio F

In a recent interview with global broadcaster CNBC, Singapore’s foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan confirmed that the Covid-19 vaccine, when available, will be free for migrant workers. Also, Singapore does not intend to make vaccination compulsory.

Below is the relevant extract from the interview, 17 December 2020, the transcript of which was posted on the Foriegn Ministry website.

Presenter (Sri Jegarajah): Minister, can I bring it back to the vaccine programme here in Singapore because our migrant worker community was hit very hard by COVID. Thankfully, it is now under control. Do migrant workers fall into what can be described as an essential worker category? And in terms of priority, where do they rank, and is this vaccine going to be free for them?

Vivian Balakrishnan, foreign minister: Thank you for the question. If I was to rewind time, our Prime Minister, I think, still remains the only leader in the world, who made that assurance that we would treat migrant workers exactly the same as we would citizens, in terms of access to health care, in terms of protection. First point. Second point, from a professional and medical perspective, a human being living in Singapore is a human being equally at risk of either getting infected or infecting others. So this is the reason why we do not discriminate on the basis of nationality, for all people domiciled, living, working, in Singapore. Third point, we have announced that we will make it free. To answer your question on the foreign workers, they will get access to the vaccine on the same terms as our local people, which means it will be free, and the priority will be on the basis of risk and need. Rest assured of that, we will look after them to the best of our ability.

Sri Jegarajah: Encouraging news for all our friends in the migrant worker community.

Minister: It must be so. They work so hard, they sacrifice so much for their families back home. This is humanity. This is common sense. This is public health.

The first batch of the Pfizer vaccine is expected to arrive Singapore before the end of December 2020 and the government has separately said that there should be enough vaccine doses for all by the later part of 2021. However, it is not yet clear what the prioritization scheme will be.