Coronavirus Singapore

More opt for Pfizer vaccine despite longer wait for slot

Some prefer Pfizer as its side effects are said to be less severe compared to Moderna jab

People waiting to enter the Buona Vista Community Club yesterday to receive their Moderna jab.
People waiting to enter the Buona Vista Community Club yesterday to receive their Moderna jab.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Slots at vaccination centres offering the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are being taken up more quickly than those for Moderna, after vaccination bookings were made available for those aged 12 to 39 yesterday.

As people can opt for either of the two available vaccines here, some have preferred the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because its side effects are said to be less severe, among other reasons. It is also the only one here approved for those under the age of 18.

At the media conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 on Thursday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said those who choose to go to vaccination centres that offer the Moderna vaccine are much likelier to get an earlier slot because students under 18 can take only the Pfizer jab. The vaccination drive for 400,000 students aged 12 and above began on June 3.

Checks by The Straits Times yesterday afternoon showed that the earliest slot available for the Moderna vaccine is today, compared with June 21 for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. All vaccination centres tagged "more slots available" on a Covid-19 vaccination appointment booking page seen by ST offer the Moderna vaccine.

Ms Germaine Koh, 22, a student at Nanyang Technological University, chose Pfizer after observing the side effects on those around her who had been vaccinated.

She said: "My parents took Moderna and they had slight fevers after taking the jab, but some others who took Pfizer said that they had little to no side effects."

Some, such as university student Isabel Dyason, 22, chose vaccination centres that offer Pfizer even though they were farther away from her home. Ms Dyason, who lives in Tampines, booked June 25 for her first jab at Bedok Community Centre.

The shorter waiting period between doses for the Pfizer vaccine - 21 days against Moderna's 28 days - also appeals to some, while others said they chose it because more vaccination centres are offering it.

There were also those who thought the two vaccines are equally safe and effective, and chose their vaccination centres based on convenience.

Ms Goy Shi Yi, 32, a communications manager, said: "I wanted to get it done early and as soon as possible because the situation may worsen very quickly as we have seen from all the recent clusters."

She booked a slot for today at Radin Mas Community Club, which is a few bus stops from her home.

"Side effects like fever aren't of much concern to me. If we are talking about rashes or some blood clots, then perhaps I would be more worried," she said.

A study conducted by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in April found that those who received the Moderna vaccine more frequently reported side effects than those who received the Pfizer jab.

After the second dose, 74.8 per cent of Moderna recipients reported reactions such as fever, headache and fatigue, compared with 64.2 per cent of those who got the Pfizer vaccine.

Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang of the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health said the reasons for the difference are still unknown.

However, in terms of severe or life-threatening side effects, the two vaccines are similar and the risks are very low. "In fact, the risk of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) to the Moderna vaccine is about half or less than half of the Pfizer vaccine," he added.

Dr Ling Li Min, an infectious diseases expert at Rophi Clinic, said: "Experts conclude that both vaccines are similar and equally good when it comes to efficacy, and that side effects depend more on the person than the shot itself."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2021, with the headline 'More opt for Pfizer vaccine despite longer wait for slot'. Subscribe