More than 50,000 active taxi and private-hire car drivers will be offered the chance to get their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the week, as the effort to vaccinate front-line land transport workers kicks into high gear.
About 300 drivers received their first jabs at the vaccination centre in the former Hong Kah Secondary School yesterday, the first day of the vaccination exercise for the point-to-point sector.
Eligible cabbies and private-hire drivers will progressively receive text messages with a unique link for them to book their vaccination appointments online.
They can book appointments at a time convenient for them and get their jabs at any of the 14 vaccination centres, 20 polyclinics or 22 Public Health Preparedness Clinics currently operating as vaccination sites across the island.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor strongly encouraged drivers who are offered the vaccine to take it up.
She also gave an update on the overall effort to vaccinate more than 80,000 land transport workers, including cabbies and private-hire drivers.
As at Feb 14, more than 14,000 workers had received their first jabs, and more than 10,000 had received their second doses.
While Dr Khor noted that some point-to-point drivers had concerns about potential side effects, those who were jabbed yesterday were appreciative that they were given priority for the vaccine.
"Vaccination is another means to protect themselves, their families and their community. It will give them greater peace of mind, as well as give greater assurance to their commuters," she said.
"If they wait, then whether they will be able to get (another) appointment really depends on the take-up rate, as well as the supply of vaccines that comes through."
Labour MP and National Trades Union Congress director Yeo Wan Ling said that the National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) have been working closely with drivers and tripartite partners to offer a safe commuting experience.
She added: "They have been maintaining good personal hygiene, keeping up the cleanliness of their vehicles and practising safe management measures... Our drivers also want to do their part in Singapore's vaccination strategy."
Number of land transport workers (as at Feb 14) who had received their second doses in the vaccination exercise for more than 80,000 such workers. More than 14,000 of them had received their first jabs.
ComfortDelGro taxi driver Tan Eng Chuan, 54, said yesterday that he decided to get vaccinated as he felt a responsibility to the public to do so. While he felt some numbness after his jab, he was back behind the wheel in no time.
With an eight-year-old child at home, Mr Tan said the vaccination and regular cleaning of his cab help put his mind at ease.
Mr Tham Yuet Kok, 72, who has been a taxi driver for more than 40 years, initially had concerns about the vaccine's possible side effects.
His family also had doubts about the jab.
But he said educational campaigns on television and radio have helped to change their minds.
"I meet different passengers every day, so it is better to protect myself and my family," he added.
Grab driver Joseph Goh, 55, who is an NPHVA committee member, said he hoped that taxi and private-hire car operators can offer schemes such as rental waivers to reassure drivers worried about income loss due to possible side effects from the vaccine.
Both Grab and Gojek said their drivers are covered for any potential loss in income should they fall ill or become hospitalised due to any side effects.
Grab Singapore's managing director Yee Wee Tang said: "Getting vaccinated is important as it not only protects them, but also their loved ones.
"It is also an important step in helping Singapore move into recovery mode."