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Singapore opens COVID vaccine center in shuttered Changi terminal

More planned facilities to 'substantially' raise shot count above current 6,200

A hospital staff member receives a coronavirus vaccine injection in Singapore. (Courtesy of Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information)

SINGAPORE -- The Singaporean government on Wednesday opened the city-state's first two coronavirus vaccination centers, including one inside a temporarily suspended terminal at Changi Airport, as officials look to accelerate inoculations.

The goal is to have eight such centers up and running nationwide by the end of February, the Health Ministry said in a statement the same day, with more to come thereafter.

Changi, Singapore's international gateway, has four passenger terminals. But only Terminals 1 and 3 are being used at the moment, due to the decline in travel demand amid the pandemic. The vaccination center is located in Terminal 4, which has been shuttered since last May.

The second facility opened on Wednesday is inside the Raffles City Convention Center in the central business district. Other planned sites include a former school and a community center. "More centers across the island are being planned, and will be rolled out in tandem with the arrival of the vaccine shipments," the ministry said.

The centers will be managed by health care service providers and public hospital doctors. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told reporters that the facilities would be spread out geographically to maximize accessibility. The airport terminal is in the eastern part of the country.

Singapore will also conduct vaccinations at selected clinics.

Changi Airport's Terminal 4 before the coronavirus pandemic: The building is now home to a vaccination center.   © Reuters

Last month, Singapore became one of the first countries to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, and received its first shipment.

Health workers are among the first to be inoculated. The Health Ministry said that as of Tuesday, a total of 6,200 people had received their initial doses.

"These numbers are expected to rise substantially in the coming weeks as we continue to ramp up our vaccination operations," the ministry said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 68, also received his first shot last week, aiming to convince vaccine skeptics and older residents to get the jab.

Thanks to various safety measures and border controls, Singapore has kept COVID-19 mostly under control of late. The country reported 38 new cases on Wednesday, 37 of them imported.

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