Everything we know so far about Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination plan

A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a woman at Singapore General Hospital. Photo: Singapore General Hospital
A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a woman at Singapore General Hospital. Photo: Singapore General Hospital

The jabs have begun as Singapore rolls out vaccines for everyone a year after the COVID-19 invasion gripped the city – and the world. 

While the city-state is among the earliest countries to kickstart inoculations, it’s going to take time before everyone gets a turn. And that’s if they want to, of course, as it’s not been made compulsory. 

While the government has been tight-lipped about how many doses have reached these shores, it is telegraphing confidence that all those who want it can get it by the end of the year

Looking forward to it? Unsure whether to roll up your sleeve at all? Here’s all we know so far about the program. 

When will the vaccines arrive?

The first batch of the highly effective Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived Dec. 21. Officials refused to say how many doses were in the batch, but we gained some insight Wednesday when Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that more than 6,200 have taken it, including himself. 

Singapore has also ordered vaccines made by the Moderna Inc. and Sinovac Biotech drug companies, which are expected to arrive over the course of the year. No exact dates have been released yet and nothing has been said as to the number of doses the government has ordered. But Gan told Parliament earlier this month that he has secured “enough” for everyone, and that, if everything goes as scheduled, they will all arrive by the third quarter of this year. So we’re taking his word for it, for now. 

While Moderna’s vaccine has been found to be about highly effective, doubts have been raised about the efficacy of Sinovac’s CoronaVac. For the record, there are nearly 6 million people in Singapore. 

When can I get vaccinated?

That largely depends on how old you are and what your job is. If you’re the prime minister, you could get a jab last week, as Lee Hsien Loong did on-camera. If you’re a health care worker or other profession considered to be on the response “frontline,” then you’ve been eligible since Dec. 30.  

The elderly can start getting vaccinations next month. The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which is considered 95% effective, is only recommended for those over 16.

That leaves pretty much everyone else in a holding pattern, waiting their turn. All jabs given this year will be free of charge. 

Who has been vaccinated?

Here’s a non-exhaustive list as of Jan. 15:

  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
  • Health Minister Gan Kim Yong
  • Education Minister Lawrence Wong
  • Health Ministry’s Director of Health Services Kenneth Mak
  • Singapore General Hospital healthcare workers
  • National Infectious Disease Center workers
  • Nursing staff at the Ren Ci home in Bukit Batok
  • Medics from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, Home Team, and Singapore Prison Service
  • Singapore Airlines pilots and cabin crew

Those who have taken their first of two doses will be given a vaccination card reminding them of when to return. Miss that appointment and the chance of it working falls by about half.

Where can I get vaccinated?

Those who have been vaccinated in Singapore have gotten their jabs at either private or public hospitals. But the rest of us can look forward to getting injected at makeshift vaccination centers coming online across the country. 

Two of the eight planned centers have already opened at Changi Airport Terminal 4 and the Raffles City Convention Centre. 

Others at the former Hong Kah Secondary School in Jurong and the Woodlands Galaxy Community Club will be ready next week. The locations of the remaining four have yet to be announced but are expected to be up next month. Plans are underway to make vaccination available at private and public clinics. 

The three vaccines

Pfizer-BioNTech 

The COVID-19 vaccine from America’s Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech companies is so far the only one to win interim authorization from the Health Sciences Authority for pandemic use in Singapore. The vaccine is said to be 95% effective if administered in two doses 21 days apart. It was also validated by the World Health Organization for emergency use. Recommended for those 16 and up. 

Sinovac

The world is unsure as to how effective China’s COVID-19 vaccine is after clinical trials in Brazil showed a lower efficacy rate than what was originally touted. Sinovac’s vaccine on Tuesday showed that it was only 50.4% effective instead of 78%. Gan said that the vaccine would be reviewed before its roll-out. 

Moderna

The COVID-19 vaccine by America’s Moderna was said to have 94.1% effectiveness in tackling the coronavirus and uses the same technology as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It requires two doses taken 28 days apart. Recommended for those 18 and up. 

Risks and side effects

Despite what one may read on the internet, vaccines are proven, safe science with more than 200 years of success in eliminating disease. They involve using the pathogen against itself by introducing an inert version of them that triggers the body’s defenses, resulting in immunity without infection. That said, it is common for them to cause mild reactions.

Pfizer-BioNTech & Moderna

Those who take the Moderna jab may experience pain, swelling, and redness at the site of injection, as well as chills, fatigue, and headache. 

Sinovac

Not much is known about the risks or side effects of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine. But Chinese health officials say no “severe side effects” have been reported since it was given to more than 1 million people there.

Other stories you should check out:

Lee Hsien Loong gets vaccine jab for all to see

Singapore gets COVID-19 vaccines, relaxed measures for Xmas: PM Lee

Not possible to vaccinate everyone: Singapore Health Minister

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