SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took the Covid-19 vaccine on Friday (Jan 8) morning, at the start of a nationwide drive to vaccinate staff across various public healthcare institutions.

Also vaccinated were the Health Ministry's director of medical services Kenneth Mak, along with 88 healthcare workers from the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

"It's painless, it's effective and it's important," Mr Lee said, speaking to reporters after the 30-minute observation period following the jab was up. "I hope that Singaporeans will take it up as we roll it out."

He added: "We've got ample vaccines coming in. We ordered them early, we have enough for everybody in Singapore - all the residents, all the citizens and even the non-citizens who are staying here."

The Prime Minister was at SGH to observe the start of inoculations for healthcare workers, and said he took the opportunity to get his own vaccine.

He was jabbed in his right arm, as he is left-handed, and will return in three weeks for the second dose.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two injections, given 21 days apart, and all who are vaccinated will be issued a vaccination card to remind them of follow-up appointments.

"The needle was very fine," Mr Lee added in Mandarin. "You can hardly feel it when it goes in."

He urged all Singapore residents to get the vaccine when it is available to them. "It will make us safer, and it will make you and your loved ones safer too, so please take it when you get it."

Administering the vaccine was senior staff nurse Fatimah Mohd Shah, 41, who gave the Prime Minister advice on what to look out for after his jab and took a photo with him afterwards.

"I felt happy and honoured to administer the vaccine for PM (Lee)," said Ms Fatimah. "Of course, I was a bit nervous, yes."

PM Lee said last month that he and his Cabinet colleagues would be getting vaccinated early, to show Singaporeans they believe the vaccine is safe.

Singapore received its first shipment of vaccines on Dec 21, making it the first Asian country to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech product.

The vaccines were flown in from Brussels on a Singapore Airlines flight, and subsequently loaded onto a refrigerated truck and taken to a secret location.

Forty employees from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, including executive director Leo Yee Sin, were the first to get the jab on Dec 30.

The Covid-19 vaccine is free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents who are currently here.

Although the jab is optional, the Health Ministry's chief health scientist, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, has said at least 80 per cent of the population will need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.

Those who wish to get vaccinated will have to make an advance booking, and will not get to choose the vaccine they want.

More vaccines are expected to arrive in the next few months, including those by American firm Moderna and China's Sinovac.