Personal Finance

Why is Singapore Leading in Asia's COVID-19 Vaccine Effort?

Singapore has gained international recognition for its effective COVID-19 vaccine rollout, but how does it compare to other countries in East and Southeast Asia?

After over a year since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Wuhan, China, the world continues to be ravaged by the Coronavirus. The recent development and administration of vaccines mean an end is in sight. However, the rollout of vaccines has been uneven at best, with the disparities between countries being quite significant.

Although much of the world continues to struggle with widespread vaccine administration, Singapore has been among the world's leaders. In fact, according to The New York Times, Singapore is among the top 20 countries in the world and the best in Asia in terms of vaccines delivered per capita.

Leading the Pack: Singapore's Vaccination Record Compared to Other Countries in East and Southeast Asia

Doses Administered (Per 100 People)Total Doses AdministeredPercentage of Population VaccinatedPercentage of Population Fully Vaccinated
South Korea1.2621,7341.2%N/A
Japan0.3359,1910.3%Under 0.1%
VietnamUnder 0.120,695Under 0.1%N/A
Data obtained from Our World in Data via The New York Times (March 17, 2021)

Compared to other countries in Asia, Singapore firmly leads in nearly all relevant metrics: vaccine doses per capita, percentage of population vaccinated, and percentage of population fully vaccinated. As the most health-efficient country in Asia (according to Bloomberg), it's not particularly surprising that Singapore is leading the vaccine effort in Asia. But what advantages lead Singapore to vaccinate its population so much more effectively than its counterparts in Asia?

Key Factors Aiding Singapore's Vaccine Rollout

  • Small, contained population
  • Highly efficient government and healthcare system
  • Public campaigns supporting widespread vaccination

Small, Contained Population

Two of the most critical factors contributing to Singapore's effective vaccine rollout are simply the population size and geographical constraints of the island city-state. These two constraints were crucial to Singapore's early success in combating the spread of the virus, as Singapore was able to successfully restrict its borders, enact and end its lockdown measures by Summer 2020. Indeed, with a total population of roughly 5.7 million and an area of only 728.3 km^2, Singapore has significantly more manageable oversight than countries such as China and Indonesia that surpass it in both measures. China, for instance, far surpasses Singapore in terms of population (1.398 billion) and area (9.597 million km^2) but still boasts a relatively successful vaccine rollout.

The task of the Singaporean government to vaccinate Singaporeans reflects this purported manageability. Since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first announced Singapore's shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines on 14 December 2020, the nation has reached over 9.7% of its population vaccinated, with 4.3% receiving full dosage of the vaccine—by far the highest in Asia. However, its total doses administered (792,423) is much lower than larger countries like China (64,980,000) and Indonesia (6,185,700). Considering the drastic differences in number of doses and percentage vaccinated, it becomes clear that Singapore's effective vaccine rollout is at least somewhat a consequence of its small population and geographic constraints.

Highly Efficient Government and Healthcare System

The manageability of Singapore's size and population go hand-in-hand with the efficiency of its governmental institutions. Among these is Singapore's universal healthcare coverage, which allows all Singaporean citizens to obtain free healthcare funded by the government and mandatory health insurance schemes. Among countries featured in this analysis, only China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand feature healthcare systems with some socialized characteristics. None, however, are quite as efficient as Singapore with regards to widespread vaccination.

The reason is twofold. For one, the longstanding reliance of Singaporeans on the city-state's healthcare system builds familiarity to Singapore's institutional structure. As a result, because the government continues to administer coronavirus vaccines through the state, Singaporeans are regularly educated on details about its rollout. Secondly, public hospitals eliminate the need for vaccines to be disseminated and further administered by private hospitals and healthcare providers. Where countries such as the United States struggle with muddled public knowledge about the vaccination process and inefficient distribution, Singapore excels.

Each of these factors contribute a clearly delineated process for Singaporeans to learn about, register for, and ultimately be vaccinated.

Public Campaigns and Government Programmes

Singapore's success is also impacted by the Singaporean Government's regular public campaigns and promotion of widespread vaccination and awareness. Since the beginning of the pandemic, public officials have regularly communicated to Singaporeans the importance of following restrictions and mandates. After Singapore officially began administering vaccines, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong publicly received the vaccine in January and urged Singaporeans to do the same (from Reuters). Such efforts, in confluence with the delineation of Singapore's healthcare system, help to keep the public informed of recent developments.

Furthermore, the Singaporean Government continues to make efforts to accelerate its vaccination effort. Despite its already-effective system of performing vaccinations at public hospitals, the Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH) continues to open new vaccination centres, with seven new centres opening in March and an estimated 40 centres to be accessible across the island by mid-April (from Channel News Asia). Starting 17 March 2021, Singapore is also diversifying its vaccine supply by administering the Moderna vaccine in addition to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (from Yahoo News Singapore).


Compared to the rest of Southeast and East Asia, Singapore clearly leads the charge of widespread COVID-19 vaccination. The island's record of vaccination has and continues to be exemplary by all standards, and is effective due to a confluence of reasons. Among these are the nation's small population and geographic area, highly efficient government institutions and healthcare programmes, and the state's vigilance to provide public information about vaccines. With this model, Singapore will attempt to continue down the path of full vaccination and look to turn a new page after the pandemic.

Seaton Huang

Seaton Huang is a Junior Research Analyst covering consumer finance products in Hong Kong. As an alumnus of Columbia University (M.A., 2020), Northeastern University (B.A., 2019), and a former Fulbright Fellow at Shaanxi Normal University (2018), he has significant academic and analytical expertise in the economic and political terrains of China, Hong Kong, and Asia Pacific. His past research has concerned the socioeconomic effects of mobile payment systems in China and the efficacy of China's Belt and Road Initiative in Central Asia, among other poignant topics in contemporary Asia.