To get vaccinated, or not?
The light at the end of the tunnel grows larger. In January 2021, Singapore launched its nationwide drive to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine to the population. Leading by example, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, emphasising that “It’s painless, it’s effective and it’s important.”
What’s the plan?
To immunise as many individuals of the general population as possible, the Singapore government is presently footing the bill for all Singaporeans and long-term residents in the country, with the following groups eligible:
- Permanent Residents
- Employment Pass holders
- S-Pass holders
- Work Permit holders
- Foreign Domestic Workers
- Dependent Pass holders
- Long Term Visit Pass holders
- Student Pass holders
The program is voluntary and will be rolled out in phases. Priority will be given to segments of the population’s most vulnerable, with healthcare and other front liners already receiving their shots. The government projects that all Singaporeans can get a vaccine – if they want – before the end of 2021. More information on how to schedule your vaccination will be provided.
Currently, only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna (U.S.A.) vaccine has been approved for use in Singapore. While the country has placed advanced orders for China’s Sinovac vaccine, it is still pending approval from Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA). Individuals, unfortunately, do not have a choice regarding which dose one receives under the program.
Am I medically eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine?
Pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and those under 16 years old are advised not to receive the vaccine yet until more data is available. Individuals with a history of severe allergic or anaphylactic reactions should also avoid getting vaccinated if possible. Those with a known medical history should declare this to their doctors as there may be a need to match vaccines for them. All in all, if you have pre-existing medical conditions, it is best to check with your doctor before taking the vaccine.
“But I’ve heard…”: Debunking Covid-19 vaccine rumours
Much of the internet folklore about the vaccine is scientifically unfounded. No, it does not alter your DNA. Neither does it implant microchips into your brain. We recommend readers to only trust reputable sources, such as Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH), for information.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been tested with a 95% efficacy rate in lab settings. Simply put, this means a healthy human being who has not been exposed to the virus has a 95% chance of being immune after the process. While the Moderna vaccine has an efficacy rate of 94%. As of now there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine is less effective against newer, mutated strains of the disease – specifically the H.1.1.7 strain from the U.K., the B.1.351 lineage variant from South Africa and the latest variant from India – all of which are proving to be far more contagious.
Some common side-effects include fever, redness, soreness or swelling of the administered region. However, fret not, this is your immune system’s natural response, an indication that it is working to build immunity against the virus. You will also be kept under medical watch at the vaccination venue for a stipulated amount of time to ensure you do not have severe reactions after getting vaccination.
Why should I get vaccinated?
Vaccination is one of the key strategies allowing Singapore to re-open further, facilitating more social activities and help to recover the economy. The Ministry of Health projects that an 80% vaccination rate is required to hit the gold-standard herd immunity.
At the end of the day, the vaccination protects us, our loved ones and those who are unable to receive the vaccine due to medical reasons. While the world waits in hope that international travel will resume in 2021, vaccinations may also be a mandatory requirement to move across borders.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has high efficacy with a safety profile consistent with other established and registered vaccines. At present, the benefits outweigh the risks, Singapore citizens and residents are therefore encouraged to get vaccinated if at all, possible.
Can I still get infected after getting vaccinated?
In latest news, the recent cluster at Singapore’s Tan Tock Seng Hospital sent worries across the nation regarding the vaccine’s effectiveness against Covid-19. After a fully vaccinated nurse tested positive for the virus, how safe are we even after vaccination?
According to a report by Channel News Asia (CNA) on MOH’s recent response:
“The COVID-19 vaccine is effective in preventing symptomatic disease for the vast majority of those vaccinated, but it is possible for vaccinated individuals to get infected,” – Ministry of Health (MOH) on 28 April 2021.
What does this mean? The vaccine protects you from getting sick. That doesn’t mean you can’t still be infected with the virus and transmit it to other non-infected individuals. Simply put: Vaccinated individuals are immune to the virus, they are asymptomatic but can still be a carrier of the disease.
In addition, Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, Infectious Diseases Programme Leader at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, the chances of infection even after vaccination is rare but not impossible.
“Although the currently approved mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) are very effective, we must remember that prevention of symptomatic COVID-19 occurred for approximately 94 to 95 per cent of participants in the clinical trials,” – Prof. Hsu via an interview with CNA.
Hence, while vaccines are highly effective, none are 100% effective.
Is it still safe to get vaccinated for Covid-19?
In short: Yes. According to CNA’s article featuring Dr. Leong Hoe Nam, infectious diseases expert from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, vaccination prevents severe symptoms. “A person who has not been vaccinated will have more severe symptoms, while someone who has been vaccinated will have milder ones.”
“The vaccine has converted a life-threatening illness to a moderate illness, moderate illness to mild illness and mild illness to asymptomatic illness, which is great because you effectively control hospitalisations, you prevent them (hospitalisations),” Dr. Leong added. “If you think about it, [if] no one dies of it [and] almost everybody is asymptomatic, then we have converted the disease from a bad critical illness to that of a mild cold.”
Professor Leo Yee Sin, executive director of National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) also added that vaccination also likely reduces the risk of onward transmission of infection, although further research is required to determine the extent of reduction.
Nevertheless, vaccination is still the most effective way of preventing infection, “not just in the individual, but also at a population level”, said Prof. Hsu. Vaccination goes hand in hand with other measures like safe distancing, he added.
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