SINGAPORE - Singapore kick-started its national Covid-19 vaccination programme on Wednesday (Dec 30) morning, with a senior staff nurse at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) the first to roll up her sleeve for the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.
Ms Sarah Lim, 46, is part of the team that screens suspected Covid-19 cases.
"I feel grateful and thankful for being the first to be vaccinated. I would encourage them (others) to go for it," she told reporters after receiving the shot.
"It's not very painful."
She added in Mandarin: "I wanted to take the injection to protect myself, my loved ones, patients and the public.
"It gives me greater peace of mind."
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday that the vaccinations mark a new chapter in Singapore's fight against the pandemic.
"The vaccine is key to living in a Covid-19 world, but it will still be some time before this storm will pass," he wrote on Facebook.
"Meanwhile, let's stay vigilant to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy and safe."
The injection was given by senior staff nurse Kho Wei Lian, 26. It was removed from the fridge at NCID at 8.30am - according to a note on the wall - and delivered about an hour later, after it reached room temperature.
It took about two minutes for Mr Kho to prepare the injection each time.
Once done, the healthcare workers were told to rest for 30 minutes in an observation room.
The national vaccine effort is a critical part of the push for the Republic to return to normalcy and reopen the economy, with most people expected to have the chance to receive it by next year.
Like her colleagues, Ms Lim believes that the vaccine, on top of other stringent measures such as hygiene and mask wearing, is an added layer of protection.
Second in line was Dr Kalisvar Marimuthu, a 43-year-old senior consultant who manages suspected and confirmed Covid-19 cases.
"I'm feeling lucky... feeling a bit emotional because the vaccine is potentially a game-changer," he said.
"It has been a long journey for us to reach here, it has been tough for all of us.
"Vaccines have brought pandemics to their knees in the past," he added, and he hopes that history will be repeated this time.
"I'm hoping there is light at the end of a very long tunnel."
On receiving the shot, he noted: "I'm already feeling better and more protected. This vaccine is probably the last layer of protection for us."
Mr Mohamed Firdaus Mohamed Salleh, 38, a senior staff nurse at NCID, was also among the first of about 30 NCID staff in line for the injection on Wednesday.
"This gives me the assurance that I can go home safely to my kids," said the father of four.
By the end of the day, 40 NCID staff members had received their injections, including Professor Leo Yee Sin, the centre's executive director.
The remaining NCID staff will be progressively vaccinated, with the National Healthcare Group (NHG) management and staff starting in January.
This vaccine requires two injections, given 21 days apart. Staff who got their shots on Wednesday will receive a second dose on Jan 20.
When they arrive for the vaccination, they will get a vaccine information sheet and vaccine screening form.
Before their turn, they fill in the first part of the vaccine screening form on personal particulars, medical information, and declaration and consent.
Before administering the vaccine, the vaccinator asks them questions related to vaccine eligibility.
After receiving the vaccine, staff get a vaccination card and are observed for 30 minutes on site to ensure that they have tolerated the vaccine well.
Others on the front line are also being rostered for similar vaccinations, with public healthcare institutions and private hospitals arranging for their staff to be vaccinated at their respective premises.
This is in line with recommendations by an expert committee that front-line and healthcare workers and those most vulnerable to severe complications if they contract Covid-19 should be vaccinated first.
Singapore residents aged 70 and older will receive their jabs from February next year, followed by other Singaporeans and long-term residents who are medically eligible.
The expert committee also assessed that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is suitable for use in people aged 16 and older for the prevention of Covid-19, although the vaccine is still not recommended for pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals until more information is available.
The first shipment of the vaccine arrived in Singapore earlier on Dec 21 on a Singapore Airlines flight from Brussels.