More in S'pore getting Covid-19 vaccine jabs since travel lane announcement, dine-in ban for unvaccinated

People at the vaccination centre at Tanjong Pagar Community Club on Oct 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - With diabetes and other maladies, 56-year-old Josle Johari had been holding off getting vaccinated against Covid-19 because he was worried about potential side effects.

But after the announcement last Saturday (Oct 9) that unvaccinated individuals would not be able to dine-in anywhere, including hawker centres, the retired security officer decided to speak to his doctor.

"I was worried that taking the shot will lead to side effects, but my family and friends who are vaccinated encouraged me. I also like sitting at hawker centres for lunch but the new rules mean I can't," said Mr Josle, who lives in Boon Lay.

On Tuesday, he turned up at Taman Jurong Community Club to receive his first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

"I am eager to be fully vaccinated so I can continue eating out too," he told The Straits Times.

Clinics and private healthcare providers said they noticed an increase in people coming forward to get their jabs since last Saturday.

The announcement to bar unvaccinated people from dining in at hawker centres and coffee shops, or entering malls, followed an exponential rise in community cases.

The spike saw Singapore tighten measures on Sept 27, cutting dining in to only two fully vaccinated diners per group.

But unvaccinated could eat at hawker centres and coffee shops in groups of two. There were about 1,500 new daily cases then.

It hit more than 3,000 new daily cases by the time the authorities moved to stop dining in for the unvaccinated.

But they also rolled out the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) plan, which would allow vaccinated Singaporeans to travel to 11 countries and return without quarantine.

Mr Josle was not the only one nudged into getting his shot on Tuesday.

At Tanjong Pagar Community Club, an American national who works in the healthcare industry decided to take his first dose after reading news of the VTL, which includes the United States as a destination.

"The only reason I decided to get it was because I want to be able to travel without quarantine, I haven't seen my family in two years," said the 35-year-old, who declined to be named.

Major private healthcare providers running vaccination centres told ST a majority of those receiving their jabs since the announcement were there for the booster shots.

Raffles Medical Group, which operates 12 vaccination centres here, said there was an overall 20 per cent increase in those getting booster shots since the weekend.

At Fullerton Health, it was a 30 per cent increase in appointments across the group's nine centres.

Of this, about 70 to 80 per cent were there for the booster shots.

Healthway Medical Group, which operates four centres, also saw a "significant increase" in appointments for booster shots.

People at the vaccination centre at Taman Jurong Community Club on Oct 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Ms Chan Wei Ling, chief executive of Thomson Medical's specialist centres, said there was an increase in appointments and walk-ins for the vaccines across its three centres.

It was announced that healthcare workers, front-line workers and those aged 30 and above would be invited to take Covid-19 vaccine booster shots.

Booster shots have been available for those aged 60 and above since Sept 15, and those aged 50 to 59 since Oct 3.

At the Tenteram Clinic in Outram, all 120 vaccination appointments have been fully booked for the rest of the week.

Dr Dale Lim, a family physician there, said there was about a 30 per cent increase in patients coming in to get their shots since Saturday, with the majority there for their booster shots.

Dr Lim said that most of those seeking boosters were elderly patients in their 60s and 70s.

"Most are requesting to take their booster shots, as they perceive a high likelihood of being infected with Covid-19 due to the high number of cases in the community," he said.

Four patients were there on Tuesday to get their first dose of the jab.

Dr Lim noted it was the first time in a few weeks that patients had requested to start their vaccination regime.

"Perhaps these four patients finally decided to go for the vaccination after Saturday's announcements," he said.

Dr Aziz Noordin, family physician at Tampines Family Medicine Clinic, said his clinic had received more calls asking about the availability of vaccination appointments since last Saturday.

He expects more people to turn up at the clinic and get vaccinated in the weeks to come.

"A common reason among those who got their first or booster dose of the vaccine was them wanting to enjoy the benefits that vaccination confers, such as being able to travel overseas, or face reduced restrictions and be allowed to go out and eat," he said.

He added that there has also been about a 5 per cent to 10 per cent increase in inquiries about booster shots since last Saturday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said last Saturday that the booster reduces the risk of severe infection by more than 10 times for vaccinated seniors.

Over at Northeast Medical Group's clinic in Tampines, vaccination appointments have more than doubled compared to last week.

Chief executive Tan Teck Jack said most of the patients were worried about getting infected. They were also convinced that the vaccines are safe, given that most of the population has been vaccinated.

At Taman Jurong Community Club, Madam Yap Lay Ching said she "rushed" to get her booster shot.

"(Now) at least if I get the virus, I won't fall very ill. I work as a part-time cleaner at a quarantine facility, so I am even more scared for my safety," said the 59-year-old.

Taxi driver Law Poh Khoon, who received his booster shot at Kebun Baru Community Club on Tuesday, said he did so for his own safety.

"We taxi drivers get all sorts of customers and we don't know who is infected, so the vaccines give us more protection," said the 67-year-old.

People at the vaccination centre at Kebun Baru Community Club on Oct 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

At Yew Tee Community Club, another taxi driver, 57-year-old Lim Ting San, said he had received his invitation via SMS the day before.

"I drove past in my taxi and saw the centre was not crowded, so I decided to just walk in. The jab is free, so I just took it.

"My previous two shots were Pfizer, so I decided to take the Moderna vaccine to mix it up, otherwise all my vaccines would be the same," he said.

Retiree Yau Yah Kiang, who previously worked in the food and beverage industry and got his booster jab on Tuesday, said: "I'm doing this to protect myself - you only stand to lose out if you don't get vaccinated."

The 74-year-old added: "The Government is letting us protect ourselves, and even our leaders have all gotten vaccinated - and they have so much more to lose."

Retiree Yau Yah Kiang waiting in the observation zone after receiving his booster jab at Yew Tee Community Club on Oct 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

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