Over 113,000 people in S'pore received first Covid-19 vaccine dose: MOH

Volunteers wait to get the Covid-19 vaccine as they participate in a trial run at the vaccination centre in Tanjong Pagar Community Club, on Jan 26, 2021.
Volunteers wait to get the Covid-19 vaccine as they participate in a trial run at the vaccination centre in Tanjong Pagar Community Club, on Jan 26, 2021.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - More than 113,000 people have received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Thursday (Jan 28).

Among them, there were 432 "adverse event reports" linked to symptoms generally associated with all vaccinations. These include injection site pain and swelling, fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, giddiness, nausea and allergic reactions such as itch, rash, swelling of eyes or lip. Most of these symptoms resolved on their own within a few days, said MOH.

There were three cases of anaphylaxis, or rapid onset of severe allergic reactions, but all of them recovered and were discharged from the hospital after a day's observation or treatment, the ministry added.

The three people, who are in their 20s and 30s, developed multiple symptoms such as rash, breathlessness, lip swelling, throat tightness and giddiness.

All three had a history of allergies, including allergic rhinitis and food allergy such as to shellfish, but none had a history of anaphylaxis, which would have precluded them from receiving the vaccine.

"As all vaccinated persons in Singapore are closely monitored, the symptoms in these three individuals were promptly detected and treated," the ministry said.

The incidence rate of anaphylaxis in Singapore stands at about 2.7 per 100,000 doses administered, according to MOH. The incidence rates reported abroad is around one to two per 100,000 doses administered, after they have administered millions of vaccine doses.

"Variations in the incidence rate are to be expected initially as the numbers vaccinated in Singapore to date are relatively small," said MOH.

The ministry said it will continue to work with the Health Sciences Authority and the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination to closely monitor the safety of the vaccine and ensure the vaccines used in Singapore are safe for its population groups.

MOH's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said that anaphylaxis is a known but rare side effect of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

As with all vaccines, there will always be a small proportion who experience severe allergic reactions upon vaccination, he said, adding that measures have been put in place, such as pre-and post-vaccination screening.

"Healthcare professionals in Singapore generally have a high rate of reporting of adverse events, which reflects their vigilance and promptness to report any adverse events.

"We will continue to work with them and our partners to ensure that vaccinations are performed safely. Vaccination remains safe for those who are eligible, and I encourage all Singaporeans and long-term residents to be vaccinated when your turn comes," he added.

In its update, the ministry said that more than 113,000 people have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of Wednesday. More than 50 people have also taken their second dose of the vaccine and completed the full vaccination regimen.

"These numbers are expected to rise substantially in the coming weeks as we continue to ramp up our vaccination operations safely," said MOH.

To provide help to those who develop serious side effects, the ministry also released details of a vaccine injury financial assistance programme.

It will include a one-time payout of up to $10,000 to those who were hospitalised with serious side effects and required care in the high dependency or intensive care unit.

It will also provide a one-time payout of $225,000 to those who suffered permanent severe disability or have died as a result of the vaccination.

Recipients must be Singapore citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders who took their Covid-19 vaccination in Singapore.

They must have experienced a serious side effect that is potentially life-threatening or fatal, and has required inpatient hospitalisation or has caused persistent incapacity or disability.

The side effects will be assessed by a doctor linked to the person's vaccination, said MOH.

"As the severity of serious side effects can be broad, and assessment by the treating doctors may vary, MOH has appointed an independent clinical panel comprising experts in relevant fields such as neurology, immunology and infectious diseases, to assess and adjudicate (the programme's) applications."

In Thursday's update, the MOH also said that more vaccination centres will be set up over the next few weeks. They will be located in high-population catchment areas or places easily accessible by public transport.

In total, there will be around 40 vaccination centres. Each centre can administer about 2,000 vaccinations per day.

A pilot scheme to vaccinate seniors aged 70 and above was rolled out in Tanjong Pagar and Ang Mo Kio on Wednesday. To facilitate the process, a new vaccination centre at Tanjong Pagar Community Centre was set up this week, and another one at Teck Ghee Community Centre will be operational from Feb 1.

Polyclinics and selected Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) will also serve as vaccination sites, said MOH.

Currently, seniors can already be vaccinated at nine polyclinics and 21 PHPCs. By Feb 1, all 20 polyclinics across Singapore will begin offering Covid-19 vaccinations. These areas will be wheelchair-accessible.

Mobile vaccination teams will be set up to deliver the vaccines to seniors with mobility issues who find it challenging to visit a vaccination site, said MOH.

As of Wednesday, the ministry has sent letters to more than 10,000 seniors in Ang Mo Kio and Tanjong Pagar, and more than one-third of them have booked their appointments within two days of receiving the invitation. The remaining seniors in these areas will be notified in the coming week.

All seniors across Singapore will start receiving their letters from mid-February.