Covid-19 vaccination centres to be up soon; jabs also to be given at polyclinics, GP clinics

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two injections, given 21 days apart. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Covid-19 vaccination centres that allow a large number of people to be vaccinated daily will be ready soon, and vaccinations will also be given at polyclinics and general practitioner clinics, said the country's chief health scientist, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan.

He was speaking after he took his Pfizer-BioNTech jab on Monday (Jan 11).

Allowing people to get vaccinated at polyclinics, public health preparedness clinics and GP clinics will make the experience a more convenient and comfortable one for Singaporeans, especially for the elderly, who may be more familiar with these places, he said.

Prof Tan was among close to 120 healthcare workers across the National University Health System (NUHS) who received their Covid-19 vaccinations on Monday.

The first to roll up his sleeve for the jab at the National University Hospital was Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, who is the chair of the Expert Committee on Covid-19 vaccination.

Prof Ong, who took his flu jab a few weeks ago, described the process as a relatively painless procedure. He advised Singaporeans to take their flu and Covid-19 jabs a couple of weeks apart instead of taking them together because this will allow the immune system to respond appropriately to each vaccine.

On how the first few batches of people who have been vaccinated are coping so far, Prof Ong said: "Some of the individuals in the first batch are on my expert committee... I managed to chat with the very first woman who received the vaccine... and they are all fine.

"I hope that is reassuring for other people who are getting vaccinated," he added.

Vaccinations kicked off elsewhere around the island on Monday as part of Singapore's nationwide drive, which began on Dec 30 last year.

Eighty Home Team officers involved in front-line healthcare operations were the first in the Ministry of Home Affairs to receive their jabs. A total of 1,050 officers will be progressively vaccinated in the coming weeks, the ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Fifty staff from Ren Ci's Bukit Batok nursing home were also among the first eldercare workers to get vaccinated.

With sufficient vaccine doses to go around, there is also no need for Singapore to stretch out a dose or give half a dose, Prof Tan said. This is a practice which some countries are adopting in order to stretch out the vaccine supply.

When asked about possible side effects post-vaccination that might be felt weeks or months after the jab, Prof Tan said that Singaporeans will be able to report these symptoms to vaccination centres, medical practitioners and the Health Sciences Authority.

The data will be collated centrally so that the authorities can look at the side effect profile that is emerging from the local population.

Urging people not to get put off and not show up for the second dose should they experience minor side effects such as pain and fever after the first injection, Prof Tan stressed: "The system will be there to remind people to turn up to get a second dose. It is very important for everyone to understand that full protection only takes place if you have two doses, and not just one."

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine - the only approved one here to date - requires two injections, given 21 days apart.

Addressing the issue that some may still have reservations in getting vaccinated, Prof Tan stressed the importance of education and information sharing as well as addressing some of the concerns which people may have.

"And so we have a very active outreach programme to address these different issues," he added.

Currently, the data from the Pfizer vaccine has shown that protection can last for about three months. But Prof Tan expects immunity to last longer than that as more becomes known.

"We think that it's not going to be a very short-lived immunity; it would likely be in the order of a year, two years," he said.

Vaccine work also does not stop even after people have received the jab. The authorities plan to run a couple of clinical trials, which will be conducted on a voluntary basis, Prof Tan said.

Participants who are keen to contribute to research can enrol in these forthcoming studies, which will look at the nature of the immune response to vaccination. The trials will not try to re-examine efficacy again, Prof Tan noted.

There have also been concerns over how some of the people administering the vaccinations here are not wearing gloves. According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no need to wear gloves but the procedure requires them to have cleaned their hands with an alcohol-based waterless antiseptic hand rub or to have washed them with soap and water before giving the jab.

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