Updated 22 January 2021
The small island state of Singapore has been lauded as one of the successful countries in terms of their handling the coronavirus pandemic with its relatively small numbers of cases and deaths.
Now, with the advent of the vaccination program, the country is hoping to leap back to a normal post-COVID life soon enough. Find out more about the Pfizer vaccination program underway in Singapore.
How does the Pfizer vaccine work?
Among the available COVID-19 vaccines, there are four distinct types, namely, whole virus (this can again be a weakened form or inactivated coronavirus), protein subunit, nucleic acid (RNA or DNA), and viral vector.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-29 vaccine BNT162b2 is a messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA) vaccine meaning that the vaccine carries genetic instructions that help the recipient’s cells to produce protein pieces that trigger immune system response. The response is in form of the reproduction of millions of copies of spike protein which stimulates the making of antibodies.
This is the same spike protein that is available in the coronavirus and used to enter the cells in the human body. If a sufficient number of antibodies are produced in the human body with the mRNA vaccine, they will prevent the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 from proliferating, thus protecting the recipient from COVID-19.
How effective is the Pfizer vaccine?
The Pfizer vaccine works best with two doses where the second one is registered 21 days after the first one. On administration of the first dose, the immune system is alerted, and post the second one, it gets a boost, thus providing the immunity to fight off the virus. Efficacy is 52% after the first dose and raises up to 95% after the second jab. So, it takes around four weeks to build immunity after the first dose (could happen earlier as well).
It is, however, not particularly known how long the vaccine immunity will last. Insights regarding the Pfizer COVID vaccine’s long term effects are clouded as trials weren’t set up to answer the same. CEO of BioNTech Sahin expects it to be months or possibly even years before the vaccine recipient becomes vulnerable to COVID-19 infection again. Eleanor Riley at the University of Edinburgh in the UK mentioned that we might have to resort to annual boosters.
It is also strongly recommended that you should complete the vaccine course i.e. take both the doses before you leave the city.
Are there any reported side effects?
As far as safety is concerned, the Pfizer vaccine has an overall great safety profile with its benefits outweigh the potential risks. Based on safety data collected from 37,586 participants enrolled in an ongoing phase 3 clinical trial, the most commonly reported side effect involves volunteers experiencing an injection site reaction (seen in almost 84% of those who received the vaccine).
So, if you are taking the vaccine, know that the injection site on your arm might hurt a little, show some redness, and get swollen a bit. You might also experience difficulties in moving your arm freely. Other known side effects of the Pfizer vaccine includes:
- Joint pains
Singaporean authorities have received some reports of adverse side effects from a number of people who have received the Pfizer vaccine. These reports will be submitted to the COVID-19 vaccination expert panel for review and recommendations.
Who’ll get the Pfizer vaccine in Singapore?
All Singaporeans, long-term residents in Singapore and migrant workers will be offered the vaccine by end-2021.
Note that the vaccine will also be available to all overseas Singaporeans and Permanent Residents medically eligible for the vaccine, provided they fly back to the country when it is their turn as per the priority list.
The vaccination strategy of Singapore gives preference to those who are more susceptible to the coronavirus and at higher risk. Priority will be given to:
- Healthcare and frontline workers
- Vulnerable groups (e.g. the elderly; those at greater risk of severe disease from COVID-19 infection)
Until the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine in the case of the following groups are confirmed, vaccination will be deferred for them:
- Pregnant women
- Those with compromised immunity
- Children under 16 years old
It is also not advisable for those with a history of anaphylaxis or severe allergic reactions.
Vaccination, although highly recommended, hasn’t been mandatory in Singapore.
Where and when to get the Pfizer shots in Singapore?
Vaccinations for healthcare workers started on 30 Dec 2020, while vaccinations for the elderly (starting with those aged 70 and above) will begin from Feb 2021.
Two vaccination centres at Changi Airport Terminal 4 and Raffles City Convention Centre are already up and working two more centres will very soon open at the former Hong Kah Secondary School and Woodlands Galaxy Community Club.
Registering for the vaccination
The MOH has started to send SMS invites to individuals eligible for vaccination as per the priority list. The SMS contains a link unique to each Singaporean and directs him to the registration website.
Word of caution: Scam messages and phone calls are rampant in the wake of the vaccination program. Do not provide any personal or financial details, as the MOH doesn’t request it. Make sure the link in the SMS ends with ‘.gov.sg’ before clicking on it.
In case of any queries, you can call the MOH hotline at 1800-333-9999.
How much will the Pfizer vaccine cost?
The COVID vaccine will be administered free of charge to all Singaporeans who wish to be vaccinated.
Latest updates on the Pfizer Vaccine in Singapore
On 20 January, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Heng Swee Keat received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, thus demonstrating its safety for stroke patients as well.