Singaporean doctor in UK among first to get Covid-19 vaccine

Dr Martin Tan was among the first few to get inoculated in Britain.
Dr Martin Tan was among the first few to get inoculated in Britain.PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR MARTIN TAN

SINGAPORE - While most are wondering when their turn will come, one Singaporean has already got his Covid-19 jab in a mass vaccination exercise.

Dr Martin Tan was among the first few to be inoculated in Britain - which is the first Western country to roll out mass vaccination against the coronavirus.

Dr Tan, 27, received the first of his two vaccine jabs on Wednesday (Dec 9) at 12.45pm (8.45pm Singapore time) in London, where he is a house officer doing his rotation in respiratory medicine.

He received his vaccine early - on day two of the exercise - because his work entails direct contact with Covid-19 patients. He has helped to care for them at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead in London since August.

He agreed that there are concerns over getting the vaccine jab early. Pfizer has obtained indemnity from the British government should any mishaps occur.

"Of course, this is a new vaccine with a new method of delivery (mRNA). Most medical practitioners were also sceptical, about potential risks of this being 'rushed' because it has been so quick for this to be approved," Dr Tan said.

On the other hand, he added: "I work with Covid-19 patients every day, so it is a balance of risk and benefit. And I accept the risks, given the benefits of the vaccine."

He knew he would have to get vaccinated sooner or later, and also had an added incentive. "I have been looking forward to it because this is our ticket back to some normality in this world. I am dying to come back to Singapore to see my family and eat.

"I normally know when I can come back to Singapore, but this is the first time things are more uncertain."

He has been in Britain since 2014 for his medical education. His last visit home was in March, when he had to serve a stay-home notice followed by quarantine when someone sitting near him on the flight back was diagnosed with Covid-19.

Dr Tan, who described himself as "still single, available and ready to mingle", returned to London at the end of July to start work there.

He received the injection - which is free under the UK's National Health Service - at the hospital where he works. There is an electronic appointment system, he said, so there is no queue or crowds, to ensure social distancing.

Unlike Singapore, he said, the Covid-19 situation in Britain is not well-controlled. "We were having a second wave, which is putting a lot of pressure on the health service and on beds in the entire country, but it seems to be improving now."

So for him, getting the vaccine was a no brainer. He said: "The risks of getting Covid-19 and complications from it are significantly higher than those from the vaccine, based on the data produced."