Why S’poreans Should Get A COVID-19 Vaccination

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing announced last week that 40 vaccination centers will be set up in Singapore by the end of March this year, with the aim of having a community vaccination center in each area of ​​HDB.

Each center can deliver around 2,000 vaccinations per day. This is in addition to vaccination operations in the 20 polyclinics and some public health preparation clinics.

As vaccine supply will arrive in Singapore in batches over several months as manufacturers ramp up production, vaccination in Singapore has started with groups who are at higher risk and therefore need COVID-19 vaccination the most. .

This includes healthcare workers and frontline COVID-19 workers, as well as vulnerable groups at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19 infection, such as the elderly.

As of February 1, more than 155,000 people had received the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Singapore since the vaccination campaign began on December 30 of last year.

How is the vaccination process carried out?

Covid 19 vaccination singapore
Image credit: Ministry of Communications and Information
  • Step 1: Make an appointment

Currently, appointment slots are only open to healthcare, frontline workers and the elderly. Vaccination will gradually be offered to the rest of the population in phase 3.

However, you can start pre-registering your interest here and you will be notified via SMS when you can book your appointment.

An appointment is necessary, given the requirements of the cold chain at the vaccination sites and the multidose vials of the vaccine. It will also ensure operational efficiency and minimize individual wait times.

Bring your vaccination card and NRIC to the vaccination site. You will need to answer a few questions about your medical history before going to the waiting room.

At the vaccination stand, a healthcare professional will administer the vaccine. An alcohol swab is first rubbed on your arm and you will be injected into the muscle in your upper arm.

  • Step 3: 30-minute observation period

After the vaccination, you will be taken to an observation area where you will have to wait 30 minutes to see if a negative reaction occurs.

Some pain in your arm is to be expected, but if you get a rash or headache, or feel dizzy, you will be taken to a nursing station for treatment by a doctor.

  • Step 4: Go for your second jab three weeks later

At the final counter, you will be asked more questions about how you are feeling. If all goes well, you will be assigned a second appointment, which will take place approximately three weeks later. Two injections are needed for the vaccine to be fully effective and for protection to last as long as possible.

The vaccination is unlikely to leave scars because it is an intramuscular injection, so the inflammation occurs in the muscle.

Can we trust a vaccine developed so quickly?

pfizer covid vaccine
Image Credit: AFP

The only vaccine approved for use in Singapore was only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Today (February 3), the HSA also authorized the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in Singapore.

Several measures have been taken to ensure its safety in use. It has undergone a multi-step “screening” process and has passed all security checks as well as advanced clinical trials.

However, one question that has weighed on the minds of Singaporeans is: should we trust a vaccine that was developed so quickly?

A number of reasons have allowed the development of COVID-19 vaccines at an all-time high.

Including funding. During the pandemic, more funds were invested in vaccine development, accelerating the pace of research.

For example, Time magazine reported in December that the United States alone has invested US $ 12.4 billion in vaccine development and manufacture as part of its Operation Warp Speed ​​program.

Another reason is that two main vaccine candidates, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both used new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

This involves injecting only extracts of the genetic material of the coronavirus – and not the entire virus – into the human body to stimulate an immune response.

Traditional vaccines, on the other hand, use a live or weakened virus injected into the body to teach it to recognize the invader.

With traditional vaccines, a lot of development has to be done. You need a big factory to make the protein, or the virus, and it takes a long time to grow them.

The beauty of mRNA is that you don’t need it. If you inject a person with nanoencapsulated mRNA, it goes into the cells and then the body is your factory. The body takes care of everything else from there.

– Robert Langer, co-founder of Moderna and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Third, regulators like the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) now also allow drug companies to submit real-time data on an ongoing basis, rather than at the end of each phase of the trial.

These continuous submissions allow regulators to conduct a simultaneous real-time review of the data available to date, rather than waiting for all data to be collected before reviewing it.

This can halve the time it would normally take to get a new vaccine approved, while ensuring that relevant safeguards are in place.

How safe and effective is the vaccine?

In November, final results from late-stage clinical trials published by the companies showed the vaccine to be 95% effective in preventing Covid-19.

As with all established vaccines and medicines, there is a low risk of very rare but serious adverse events that can occur after vaccination. Most side effects go away within three days.

Side effects of covid-19 vaccination
How to Handle Potential Side Effects / Image Credit: Department of Health

Of the hundreds and thousands of people who have been vaccinated in Singapore so far, only four have experienced serious allergic reactions.

Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said the four people with anaphylaxis were between 20 and 30 years old and have since recovered from the episode.

They developed several symptoms, such as a rash, shortness of breath, swelling of the lips, tightness in the throat, and dizziness.

Three of them had a history of allergies, including allergic rhinitis and allergies to foods like shellfish. None of them had a history of anaphylaxis, as this would have prevented them from receiving the vaccine.

“As everyone vaccinated in Singapore is closely monitored, the symptoms of these four people were quickly detected and treated,” said Dr Puthucheary.

The incidence rate of anaphylaxis here is now about 2.6 per 100,000 doses administered, compared to about 2.7 per 100,000 previously reported doses.

To be on the safe side, people with a history of severe allergic reactions should not take the Covid-19 vaccine yet.

Other groups, such as pregnant women, immunocompromised people, and people under the age of 16, should also refrain from receiving the injections, as large-scale clinical trials have not involved such volunteers.

This means that there is not yet enough data to assess the safety of a Covid-19 vaccine on these groups of people.

Why you shouldn’t take a wait-and-see attitude

Despite some reported side effects, the benefits of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and its complications far outweigh the risk of potential adverse events known to be associated with the vaccination.

Therefore, although vaccinations are not mandatory, all Singaporeans are encouraged to go for the jabs.

minister of health gan kim yong
Image credit: Ministry of Communications and Information

In addition, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced to parliament the rollout of a new vaccine injury financial assistance program to provide support to those experiencing severe vaccine-related side effects. Covid-19 administered here.

This will help give peace of mind to those who receive the vaccines, although few of them need it.

Although our cases in the community are still low at this time, Singaporeans should take the opportunity to get vaccinated.

If Singapore is ever hit by a second wave, vaccinating large numbers of people during the lockdown is very difficult, and the vaccine will take a long time – around five weeks or more – to generate sufficient immunity.

Also, when the time is right for you to get vaccinated and you choose to hold back, know that vaccine supplies will not be just for you.

Instead, the vaccines will go to whoever is next. Indeed, Singapore’s goal of completing COVID-19 vaccinations by the third quarter of 2021.

That said, if you are medically eligible, you should get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to you. Keep in mind that the vaccine is not free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents until the end of 2021.

Featured Image Credit: Lee Hsien Loong via Twitter

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Jothi Venkat

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