Photographer: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

In the race to immunize people against the coronavirus, Singapore has pulled ahead of its neighbors to become the first in Southeast Asia to start an official Covid-19 vaccination program.

The city-state began inoculating healthcare workers on Dec. 30, when it gave shots to 40 staff from its national infectious diseases center.

Indonesia, which was the first in the region to receive a vaccine shipment, needs to wait for more data before approving China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. shots for use. Southeast Asia’s biggest and most populous economy has announced multiple agreements to receive potential vaccines as the nation fights the region’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

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Both countries are involved in vaccine development and manufacturing, a testament to the variety of strategies employed by Southeast Asian nations. Here’s how the region of more than 650 million people is dealing with differing fiscal, demographic and distribution challenges in their vaccine strategies.




Indonesia seeks to vaccinate 181.5 million people, prioritizing those aged 18 to 59 years old.

  • The world’s fourth most populous nation is banking on both Western and Chinese vaccines, ordering 125.5 million doses from Sinovac, 50 million from AstraZeneca Plc and another 50 million from Novavax Inc., while developing 57.6 million of its own Merah Putih.
  • It’s seeking another 54 million from the global GAVI vaccine facility while talks are also on with Pfizer Inc. for 50 million doses and loaned cold storage facilities for the vaccine.
  • Indonesia plans to be able to vaccinate 16 million people a month, with production seen as the main bottleneck instead of the logistics of getting the shots across thousands of islands.
  • The country will offer free vaccines to people, and President Joko Widodo has ordered the finance minister to reallocate spending on other matters toward the free shots. He will also be the first to be inoculated as a way to show people that it is safe.

1Q 2021: Sinovac

  • Indonesia has received 3 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine in December.
  • Its drug regulator is awaiting trial data, expected in the first week of January, before it can issue emergency use authorization, after which it will begin vaccinating frontliners like health workers, police and military.
  • Sinovac will also ship raw material for 45 million doses to be manufactured by Indonesia’s PT Bio Farma by January. The state firm aims to produce 24 million doses a month.

2Q 2021: AstraZeneca

  • Indonesia will get the AstraZeneca vaccines delivered in stages starting from as early as April through the first quarter of 2022.
  • The deal also includes the option for the country to purchase an additional 50 million doses.



The country wants to have at least 50 million vaccine shots next year to inoculate about a fourth of the population, the bulk of which will likely arrive by the end of 2021 or early 2022. Priority for vaccinations will be given to medical frontliners and workers in industries deemed critical, including low-income groups and those identified as at risk.

  • The nation is eyeing 73.2 billion pesos ($1.5 billion) in vaccine purchases that it plans to fund with financing from multilateral agencies, state-owned banks and companies and bilateral sources, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said.
  • The nation expects to sign a deal for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by January and is also working on a pact with Moderna for an initial 20 million doses, said vaccine czar Carlito Galvez. It’s aiming to secure at least 80 million vaccines from pharmaceuticals companies including AstraZeneca, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson, he said.
  • The government is asking Russia’s Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which is offering another 25 million doses, to submit the results of its third clinical trial, Galvez said. Discussions with Sinovac are ongoing.

1Q 2021: Sinovac, Sputnik V

  • Vaccinations could start as early as the first quarter of 2021 using Sinovac and Russia’s Sputnik V shots, according to Galvez.
  • The Philippines has informed the Chinese manufacturer it needs 25 million doses for 2021. Sinovac has pledged to ship supplies at least 60 days after a deal is signed, which the country aimed to seal in December.
  • President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the nation’s Food and Drug Administration to allow emergency use of vaccines that have data from “adequate and well-known controlled trials,” cutting the approval process to three weeks from six months.
  • Sinovac, Sputnik V are yet to receive the local FDA approval.

May 2021: AstraZeneca

  • The country will receive as early as May 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines purchased by local companies which pooled about800 million pesos to buy 3 million shots.



The country is spending $504 million to buy enough shots to cover 26.5 million people, or about 80% of its population.

  • Malaysia is set to secure 6.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the Covax facility, and another 6.4 million directly, enough to inoculate 20% of the country’s population, according to Science and Technology Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. The first batch is expected in the second quarter of 2021.
  • The government is also in final negotiations with China’s Sinovac for 14 million doses, CanSino Biologics for 3.5 million doses, and for 6.4 million shots of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, Khairy said. The deals will involve local companies that can provide fill-finish manufacturing capacity for the vaccines, he said.
  • The nation is in talks with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, Khairy said.
  • Malaysia will conduct its first Covid-19 vaccine trial in December as part of a government-to-government agreement with China. It will be a phase-III trial on a vaccine candidate developed by the Institute of Medical Biology Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.
  • Malaysia signed an agreement with China in October to be given priority access to Covid-19 vaccines that China develops.

1Q 2021: Pfizer

  • The government has already secured 12.8 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech SE in a deal signed last month.
  • Pfizer will deliver to Malaysia one million doses in the first quarter of 2021, 1.7 million in the second, 5.8 million in the third and 4.3 million in the final three months of the year.
  • The agreement with Pfizer covers 6.4 million people and is contingent on the vaccine being approved by the U.S. FDA and Malaysia’s regulator.
  • Malaysia has negotiated with Pfizer an option to boost its purchases to cover another 20% of its population.



The city-state has set aside roughly S$1 billion ($754 million) for vaccines, tapping the likes of Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings Inc., Moderna Inc., Pfizer and Sinovac for supplies. It estimates it should have enough for its around 5.5 million-strong population by the third quarter of 2021.

  • Frontliners, the elderly and vulnerable will be prioritized in the nation’s vaccination program.
  • It aims to vaccinate the entire adult population, though this will be voluntary.
  • Vaccines will be free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents.
  • NOTE: In addition to those listed below, Moderna has concluded an agreement with the Ministry of Health to supply the country with its mRNA-1273 vaccine.

4Q 2020: Pfizer

  • Singapore has started vaccinations on Dec. 30.
  • The city-state received its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 21. The shots have been approved by the Health Sciences Authority.

Early 2021: Arcturus

  • Arcturus and Singapore’s Economic Development Board have entered into a supply agreement for the right to buy the ARCT-021 vaccine.
  • Arcturus may ship the first batch of the Covid-19 vaccine it’s developing with local scientists early next year.
  • Results so far show that the vaccine could be effective as a single dose, the Straits Times reported, citing a professor who co-developed the vaccine with Arcturus.



Thailand wants to inoculate about 50% of its population by next year. It plans to get 26 million doses from the World Health Organization-backed Covax program, 26 million from AstraZeneca, and 13 million more from other sources, providing immunity to more than 30 million people. Not wanting to rely solely on inoculations from abroad, Thailand is also developing its own anti-coronavirus shot.

  • An mRNA vaccine research project is set to start the first phase of clinical trials in April and the second phase in June. The vaccines may be available by end-2021 after receiving emergency-use authorization.
  • A DNA vaccine effort by Thailand-based BioNet-Asia is expected to start its first phase of human trials in Australia early 2021.

Mid-2021: AstraZeneca

  • Thailand has an advance agreement with AstraZeneca to secure Covid-19 vaccines, which are expected to be approved and produced by mid-2021, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said.
  • Thailand may receive vaccine doses by mid-2021 and these are expected to be distributed from then.
  • Under agreement with AstraZeneca, Siam Bioscience will produce vaccines at its facilities, and Thailand will receive technology transfer.
  • Thailand will supply coronavirus vaccines at “reasonable prices” to Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam when it begins production, Prayuth said.



The country is working on developing vaccines and will work with suppliers when vaccines are available, according to a spokeswoman at the foreign affairs ministry.

  • Vietnam is in talks with Pfizer and other medicine manufacturers in the U.S., U.K., China and Russia on acquiring coronavirus shots, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing health ministry officials.
  • Vietnam on Dec. 17 started first-phase clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine Nanocovax, developed by Vietnam’s Nonogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, with production expected to start in 2022 if tests are successful.
  • Two other Vietnamese vaccine manufacturers will start human trials for their coronavirus shots in February and March.

— With assistance by Arys Aditya, Anisah Shukry, Prim Chuwiruch, Philip Heijmans, Mai Ngoc Chau, Xuan Quynh Nguyen, Ranjeetha Pakiam, Cecilia Yap, Clarissa Batino, Chanyaporn Chanjaroen, Randy Thanthong-Knight, Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen, and Siegfrid Alegado

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