Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination programme is underway and you are encouraged to get vaccinated when it is offered to you.
But some may be concerned about side effects, allergic reactions and even the safety of the vaccine.
Prof Tan Chorh Chuan, Singapore’s Chief Health Scientist and member of the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination, has the facts.
Why should I be vaccinated?
Prof Tan: Vaccination will protect each of us, at the same time, it will help protect our loved ones. The more people get vaccinated, the lower the risk of big outbreaks from occurring and this in turn will protect those who are not recommended now for vaccination. These include people who are less than 16 years old, those who are pregnant and those with severe immuno-compromised conditions.
Vaccination also allows us to resume social activities much more quickly and to further reopen our economy.
What are the vaccine’s side effects?
Prof Tan: When I had my vaccination, the actual injection was painless because the needle was very fine. Then, on the same day I had some soreness in the arm which had the vaccine, and then the next day I had some headache. But now, I feel perfectly well.
For most of us who are going for vaccination, we should expect some mild side effects, usually pain and soreness in the arm, a bit of tiredness, headache. Some people get fever. But usually they just last for one, two or three days.
One of the things we look out for is severe allergic reactions. This is rare. In the vaccine rollout that has occurred around the UK and US, about eleven per one million people might get severe allergic side effects. But besides that, the rates of serious side effects is very, very low. Individuals who are vaccinated are monitored for half an hour at the vaccination site. The vaccination site has all the facilities and medications ready to deal with a severe allergic reaction and the staff are trained to react very quickly so as to minimise the risk.
Will the vaccine protect against new virus strains?Prof Tan: So, both Pfizer and Moderna have come forward to say that their vaccines continue to be effective against the variants that have been seen in the UK. We are continuing to monitor this very carefully, as additional studies are being done and as more data comes out in the coming weeks.
Is the vaccine safe?
Prof Tan: The vaccines that have been approved are safe. There are three important points to bear in mind.
(i) The first is the rapid speed in which the vaccines were developed for COVID-19 occurred because of very major advances in the science, in the manufacturing, as well as the huge amounts of funding that were put in to support vaccine development by governments, by industry and by not-for-profit organisations. So the process is much faster, but the standards that are being applied to the process, to the evaluation is kept very high, if not higher.
(ii) The second point to note is that, there are regulatory agencies such as the Health Sciences Authority in Singapore that look very carefully at the data for each vaccine. They apply high international standards to review the safety, the quality and the effectiveness of every vaccine.
(iii) We also have an expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination that also looks at the safety and effectiveness data of the different vaccines for rollout in Singapore.
Can I choose my vaccine?
Prof Tan: Any vaccines approved for use in Singapore would have met high safety standards, quality standards, and effectiveness standards. So when you are invited to come forward for vaccination, you shouldn’t have to worry about choosing which particular vaccine you will be receiving.
But we should also know that the different vaccines have different logistical requirements, so it would make it very complicated if individuals were to choose which vaccines they want. The whole vaccination process is already very complicated, and adding that additional element would make it even more difficult to roll out efficiently and quickly.
With safe management measures in place, is vaccination necessary?
Prof Tan: It is very important that even after vaccination, that we continue to wear a mask, and continue to adhere to safe distancing measures. This is because the vaccination roll out will take some time, and during that period, there will be many in Singapore who are still not protected, and they will be susceptible to infection should an outbreak occur.
When can I get my vaccination?
Prof Tan: Vaccination will be rolled out progressively, but initially because supplies will be limited, there will have to be prioritisation, and the priority groups will be healthcare workers, people who are frontline responders, as well as those people in essential services, and then seniors.
When your turn comes, MOH will notify you to come forward for vaccination. If you have any queries, you can visit vaccine.gov.sg or call 1800-333-9999.