SINGAPORE - Over 9,000 students booked appointments to receive their Covid-19 jabs on Thursday (June 3) as the national vaccination drive for more than 400,000 students kicked off.
Since Tuesday, students taking their N, O, and A-level examinations as well as those in polytechnics or their first year of junior college have been invited to take the vaccine.
Announcing this on Thursday evening, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said he was heartened by the positive response from students and the high sign-up rate.
"As we battle the evolving challenges from the pandemic, vaccination remains the best way to keep our students and children safe," said the minister in a Facebook post.
When The Straits Times visited Bishan Community Club on Thursday, there was a steady stream of students and parents accompanying them to take the vaccine.
Among the first in line was Anglo-Chinese Junior College student Ryan Oh, 17.
Ryan, who is taking the A-level examination this year, said he was doing his part to protect his grandmother who lives with him. Even though most seniors have taken the vaccine, Ryan's grandmother has not been granted approval from her doctor to do so, as she has severe allergies.
"The new coronavirus variants spread faster, and this new wave of Covid-19 seems more concerning than last year. I don't want to risk passing it to her," he said.
One parent, Ms Liza Ng, 46, signed her daughter Shyanne, 17, up for the jab even though she recognises that those who are vaccinated can still get Covid-19.
The civil servant said: "It's one of the things I can do to protect my daughter. Even if she gets Covid-19, her symptoms will be less severe."
She also chose to book an appointment on the first day of the vaccination roll-out to students, so that her daughter, a National Junior College student, can get adequate rest during the June holidays.
"Shyanne's second jab in July is on a Friday afternoon, so if she has side effects, she can rest over the weekend. She'll also have three to four weeks to rest before taking her prelims (preliminary exams) in August," she said.
For now, only those aged 12 and above as at June 1 can be vaccinated. The national effort aims to keep educational institutions and the community safe.
Those aged between 12 and 17 can take only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while those aged 18 and above can opt for either the Pfizer or the Moderna jab.
Priority is given to secondary and pre-university students in graduating cohorts who will be taking their examinations in the second half of the year.
Students who received the Covid-19 jab at Bishan CC said they took the vaccine even though they had fears of side effects.
Xin Yao Wei, 16, a student at Hwa Chong International School, said: "But it's worse to get Covid-19 than to experience side effects."
Cedar Girls' Secondary School student Ra Hari, 16, said she hopes that Singapore can soon ease Covid-19 restrictions and open up its borders, with more people being vaccinated.
Hari, who is South Korean and a student pass holder, has not seen her father in two years due to the ongoing pandemic. Her father lives in South Korea, while her mother is in Singapore.
"We have the luxury and privilege of getting the vaccine first. I understand some students may want to wait and see, but I hope we can get the jabs quickly so that other Singaporeans can take the vaccine too," she said.
On Tuesday, the first day students were invited to book their Covid-19 vaccination slots, more than half of the 52,000 parents or students who received SMSes to sign up did so.
Over the next two weeks, invitations for jabs will be extended to other full-time students, including those in madrasahs and special education (Sped) schools.
Eligible students will continue to be notified through SMS until June 13, said Mr Chan.
The entire vaccination exercise for students - which includes full-time students in continuing education and training programmes, such as those enrolled in master's programmes - is estimated to be completed by August.
Vaccinations are available at community clubs islandwide and will soon begin at four dedicated Ministry of Education vaccination centres from next Monday.
Three of the centres are located at the Institute of Technical Education college campuses in Ang Mo Kio, Choa Chu Kang and Simei, and the fourth will be at Raffles City Convention Centre.