SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore on Monday urged workers at its national airline to help make it the world's first carrier with all staff vaccinated against COVID-19, with Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Phong Choon also encouraging employees to receive shots.
Vaccinating Singapore's 37,000 frontline aviation and maritime staff is seen as key to reopening borders of the island-state, which is preparing to host events such as the World Economic Forum's annual meeting and the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian security summit in a few months' time.
Singapore Airlines (SIA), in which state investor Temasek is the biggest shareholder, lacks a domestic market to cushion it against the coronavirus border closures which have shattered the aviation industry globally. It said last year it had cut 4,300 jobs, or around 20% of its staff.
"SIA (Singapore Airlines) can be the first vaccinated international airline of the world. Try to get that done," Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told aviation workers at a vaccination drive at the airport on Monday.
More than 5,200 SIA employees have signed up to be vaccinated since staff started being inoculated last week, according to a memo sent to staff by CEO Goh on Monday.
An SIA spokesman said that represented about 50% of those eligible for the vaccine, which is being offered for free to residents by the government on a voluntary basis.
"Vaccinations are widely expected to be the game-changer in facilitating the opening of borders once again," Goh said.
"This will also be an important differentiator in the airline industry...I strongly urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible."
Unlike other mass vaccination programmes in the United States and Britain, Singapore is administering the jabs having largely contained the disease locally.
The plans have stirred rare hesitancy among some due to the low risk of infection and concern about any possible side effects from rapidly developed vaccines.
(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and John Geddie; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)