SINGAPORE - The four people who experienced a rapid onset of severe allergic reactions after receiving their Covid-19 vaccinations have all recovered, with none needing intensive care unit (ICU) support.
Responding in Parliament on Monday (Feb 1) to questions from several MPs about the supply and side effects of the vaccine, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary added that the benefits of getting vaccinated outweigh the risks.
Singapore's Covid-19 vaccination drive began on Dec 30. So far, front-liners such as medical personnel and aviation and maritime sector workers, and the elderly, have started receiving their Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine jabs.
Dr Janil told the House that among those who have been vaccinated so far, there were four reported cases of anaphylaxis, which is the rapid onset of severe allergic reactions.
They were all in their 20s and 30s, and developed multiple symptoms such as rash, breathlessness, lip swelling, throat tightness and giddiness, he said.
"Three of the individuals 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 in the first place."
The vaccine is currently not recommended for pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals.
Dr Janil said: "As with other vaccines, people who receive the Covid-19 vaccine may experience injection site pain and swelling, fever, headache, fatigue, and body aches. These mild symptoms generally resolve within a few days."
He added that anaphylaxis can be controlled when detected and treated in a timely manner, as in the case of the four people.
"All have recovered from the episode. One was under observation for a few hours while the others were discharged from the hospital after a day's observation or treatment. None needed ICU support," said Dr Janil.
Singapore's incidence rate of anaphylaxis is about 2.6 per 100,000 doses administered, compared with the incidence rate of around one to two per 100,000 reported abroad.
These countries have administered "millions of vaccine doses", noted Dr Janil, and variations in the incidence rate are to be expected initially when the numbers vaccinated here to date are relatively small.
"Currently, the benefits of getting vaccinated to protect oneself from the effects of severe Covid-19 disease and its complications far outweigh the risk of any potential adverse events known to be associated with vaccination," said Dr Janil.
He added that the Government will continue to closely monitor the safety of the vaccine, and ensure that the vaccines used here are safe for the population.
Responding to a supplementary question from Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) on the safety considerations for breastfeeding mothers receiving vaccinations, Dr Janil said that those individuals should consult medical professionals for advice, but noted that there is no evidence that it would actually cause harm to them.
"They should consult a health practitioner, their family doctor or one of the hotlines or service provider, to get specific advice about their case, as to whether or not they should proceed with the vaccine, or delay the vaccine, or delay breastfeeding and have the vaccine immediately. And it depends on the specific individual case of the mother," he said.
He added that there is "no absolute contraindication" for a breastfeeding mother to receive her vaccination.
"It is simply that we don't have enough information at this point to be so clear that they should do it without ceasing breastfeeding for five to seven days."
Dr Janil explained that the five to seven days duration is the general advice given to breastfeeding mothers for medications, as it is the length of time that the substances remain in breast milk.
He added that it is probably better for a breastfeeding mother to get vaccinated, so as to protect herself, her child and her family from Covid-19.