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Fraudsters appear to be using the interest in COVID-19 vaccines to lure gullible Singaporeans into their latest scam, by the looks of an SMS screenshot that is circulating online.

The screenshot shows a text message that asks the recipient to register via WhatsApp for the novel coronavirus vaccine developed by American pharmaceutical company Moderna. The message is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, such as misspelling Moderna as “Modena”.

The message provides what appears to be a Singapore-registered cell phone number for the recipient to contact. But netizens were quick to point out that the country code ‘+65’ will not appear in calls and text messages sent within Singapore.

The message states: “Modena, an American pharmaceutical company, has been approved to provide you with COVID-19 vaccine. Please contact whatsapp+65 86169249 for registration”.

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Netizens online have speculated that unassuming recipients who try to register for the vaccine may be asked to pay for the vaccine or to reserve their spot in the queue for the vaccine.

Singapore residents are urged to be wary of such scams. COVID-19 vaccines will be free for all citizens, permanent residents and long-term residents and will become available as part of a large-scale non-mandatory immunisation scheme sometime this year.

Although the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only vaccine that has been approved for use in the immediate term, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Monday (4 Jan) that vaccines developed by Moderna and China’s Sinovac are expected to arrive in Singapore in the coming months. He added that Singapore will have enough vaccines for everyone by the third quarter of this year, if all things go according to plan.

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The authorities will prioritise vaccinations of groups that are most at-risk, and is starting with healthcare workers. It will also prioritise COVID-19 frontline and other essential personnel, including swabbers hired by Health Promotion Board, staff working at the Government Quarantine Facilities, Community Care Facilities, and dedicated Stay-Home Notice facilities.

There are plans to start vaccinating our elderly and those at greater risk of severe disease from COVID-19 infection starting from February 2021, beginning with seniors aged 70 and above.

Vaccines for those who are in jobs or settings where risk of a super-spreading event is high, such as the construction, marine and process (CMP) sector, including migrant workers will be prioritised as well.

Mr Gan said in Parliament: “Thereafter we will progressively broaden our vaccinations to include other Singaporeans and long-term residents who are medically eligible.

“As more vaccines are approved for use, we will adjust our vaccination programme, depending on the vaccine supply as well as the disease epidemiology at that point in time.”

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