Can I choose which Covid-19 vaccine to take? 7 questions about Singapore's vaccination strategy answered

Vaccination is a "key enabler" allowing people to return to normalcy.
Vaccination is a "key enabler" allowing people to return to normalcy.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - The first Covid-19 vaccines have arrived in Singapore, and more are expected in the months ahead.

On Monday (Jan 4), Health Minister Gan Kim Yong gave Parliament an update on the nation's vaccination strategy, saying it was a "key enabler" in allowing the country to return to normalcy.

Here are key highlights from his ministerial statement.

1. The first shipments of the Covid-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech arrived in Singapore in December. When will the next shipment of vaccines arrive?

Mr Gan said Singapore is expecting more Covid-19 vaccine deliveries in the next few months, including from US biotechnology firm Moderna and China's Sinovac.

If all goes according to schedule, Mr Gan said Singapore will have enough vaccines for everyone by the third quarter of this year.

2. Who has been vaccinated so far and when will it be my turn?

The Republic's Covid-19 vaccination drive has kicked off with healthcare workers and staff working in the healthcare sector as they work in direct care of patients or in supporting roles, said Mr Gan.

Other Covid-19 front-line workers and essential personnel, such as swabbers hired by the Health Promotion Board, and staff working at government quarantine facilities, community care facilities and dedicated stay-home notice facilities, will also be at the front of the line.

For example, 40 staff from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) were the first to receive doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec 30, including Professor Leo Yee Sin, the centre's executive director. The remaining NCID staff will be progressively vaccinated, and the rest of the National Healthcare Group management and staff from this month.

Others at greater risk of severe disease from the coronavirus infection will be vaccinated from February.

This will begin with seniors aged 70 and above, and those who are in jobs or work in settings where the risk of a super-spreading event is high. This includes those in the construction, marine and process sector and migrant workers.

Thereafter, Mr Gan said Singapore will progressively broaden vaccinations to include other Singaporeans and long-term residents who are medically eligible.

The minister also said that as more vaccines are approved for use, Singapore will adjust its vaccination programme, depending on the vaccine supply as well as the disease epidemiology at that point in time.

3. Can I get the Covid-19 vaccine without an appointment?

No. Prior bookings will be necessary given the cold-chain requirements at the vaccination sites and multi-dose vials of the vaccines. It will also ensure operational efficiency and minimise individual wait times, said Mr Gan. More information on how to make the booking will be provided later.

4. Who is eligible to receive free Covid-19 vaccinations in Singapore?

Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term residents can receive free Covid-19 vaccinations. 

They include those here on an employment or S-pass, as well as work permit holders, foreign domestic workers, and dependant's pass, long-term visit pass and student pass holders.

5. Can I choose which Covid-19 vaccine to take?

No. Moreover, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has to date only approved one vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Those who opt to receive the vaccine will receive a physical vaccination card, and will be able to check their vaccination records online.


Those who opt to receive the vaccine will receive a physical vaccination card. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

6. Will the Covid-19 vaccine work against the new strain of the coronavirus?

There is currently no evidence that existing Covid-19 vaccines are less effective against the new, more transmissible strain of the coronavirus, said Mr Gan.

He noted that vaccine manufacturers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have publicly stated that their vaccines are likely to protect against the new strain, and are undertaking studies to formally confirm this.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) will evaluate the data as it emerges and review Singapore's vaccine strategy and border measures accordingly, Mr Gan said.

7. What help will I get if I develop severe side effects after I have been vaccinated?

As with all medications and established vaccines, there is a small risk of very rare but serious adverse events that may occur post-vaccination, including allergic reactions.

Those who receive the Covid-19 vaccine should be observed on-site for 30 minutes after they receive the jab so that any severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis can be detected and treated promptly, said Mr Gan.

A new programme will also be introduced to provide support for those who experience serious side effects related to Covid-19 vaccines administered here.

Mr Gan said the programme by the Health Ministry will give peace of mind to those receiving the vaccines, although few are expected to need this. More details on the vaccine injury financial assistance programme will be announced later, he said.


By the numbers 

5.7 million

The number of people eligible for free Covid-19 vaccination in Singapore. They include Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term residents.

21 days

The number of days between the two required doses of some Covid-19 vaccines, including the one from Pfizer-BioNTech. It will take up to another 14 days after the second dose to achieve maximum protection against the virus.

30 minutes

The length of time that all vaccine recipients should be observed on-site, so that any severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis, can be detected and treated promptly.

Almost 60%

The proportion of respondents who indicated through government surveys and other outreach methods that they would get vaccinated when a Covid-19 vaccine is available. About a third said they would prefer to wait for more data before deciding.

12,000

The number of travellers, including citizens and permanent residents, who entered Singapore from higher-risk countries and regions without pre-departure tests between Nov 18 and Dec 27 last year. So far around 100, or 0.85 per cent, have tested positive. None of these cases resulted in local transmission.

500

The number of visitors from China who arrived in Singapore under the fast lane scheme.

Under $50

The cost of one antigen rapid test, including operation and manpower costs. This is down from the $80 cost when such rapid tests were first administered here.