COVID-19: Vaccines - Osler Health International

COVID-19: Vaccines

The largest mass vaccination programme in Singapore’s history is underway. It seeks to protect the people residing in Singapore against COVID-19, as well as to protect businesses and jobs through the progressive re-opening of the country.

The COVID-19 vaccination is free to all Singaporeans and long-term residents in Singapore.

Here are some commonly asked questions about the vaccine:

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQS

The Singapore national vaccination programme started in December 2020 and is using the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines.

Vaccination using the Pfizer-BioNTech (also known as Comirnaty) is free of charge. Whilst vaccination with other vaccines (e.g. Sinovac) may be possible at private clinics for a fee, the Singapore government is discouraging the use of other vaccines. People not vaccinated with Pfizer- BioNTech or Moderna vaccines may face additional restrictions and measures.

Both the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines contain messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) which helps the immune system to produce protective responses against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

How does it work?

1. Scientists synthetically create the mRNA that carries a genetic code which is used by the coronavirus to produce infectious proteins. (The mRNA is not extracted from actual viruses).

2. This genetic message is given a protective coating and injected into the body.

3. After being given the injection, the mRNA is taken up by the vaccine recipient’s cells, and its code tricks the cells into producing coronavirus proteins. These proteins are not capable of forming the viruses or causing COVID-19 infection.

4. The immune system detects these coronavirus proteins and produces a defensive response.

5. If the vaccine recipient encounters the actual coronavirus, antibodies and T Cells (a cellular immune response) are already primed to fight off the actual virus.

The Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were shown to have about 95% efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection.

This means that some vaccinated people will still be vulnerable to the infection.
Thus, continued measures like mask-wearing, early testing and safe distancing measures are still important in the community.

2 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are required to achieve the optimal protection against COVID-19 infection. The 2 doses are given 3 weeks apart.

The first dose helps the immune system to create a response against the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. There will be about 50% immunity after the first dose.

The second dose further boosts the immune response to ensure that the protection lasts as long as possible.

Current data suggests this could be around 12 months. More robust data is required, and this is currently being collected as UK, Europe, USA and the rest of the world have started mass vaccination programmes. Singapore’s Ministry of Health will continue to monitor and review further data on the duration of immunity.

The Singapore government has opened vaccination for all residents and long-term visitors aged 12 years and over. This includes Permanent Residents, Employment Pass, S-Pass and Work Permit holders, domestic helpers, Dependent Pass, Long-Term Visit Pass and Student Pass holders.

You should get the COVID-19 vaccine to be protected against COVID-19 if you don’t have any conditions that make COVID-19 vaccination inadvisable.

It is NOT licensed for pregnant women, people with a history of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction), or those who had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. For now, it is also not recommended for children under the age of 16 years for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and children under the age of 18 years for the Moderna vaccine, until more safety data becomes available for these subgroups.

Please inform your doctor or nurse about your medical conditions before getting this vaccine, if you:

• are pregnant, planning pregnancy or breastfeeding
• are immunocompromised, or taking treatment that affects your immune system
• have acute or recent treatment for cancer, organ or stem cell transplantation
• have any allergies, fever, bleeding disorders, or taking blood thinning medicines
• have COVID-19 infection before, or had previously received another brand of COVID-19 vaccine

The vaccine is given as an injection into the muscle of your upper arm and consists of 2 doses. You should have the second dose of the same vaccine 21 days (for the Pfizer-BioNTech) or 28 days (for the Moderna) later to complete your COVID-19 vaccination. You need both doses to have the full vaccine protection, and for the protection to last as long as possible.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines have been assessed to be safe for use. However, you may experience common side effects, similar to other vaccines.

Most of these symptoms are mild to moderate, and aresimilar to mild flu-like symptoms that can occur after receiving the flu vaccine. Please be reassured that these symptoms are not causing you to develope the viral infection itself, but an expected immune response to the vaccine.

Common post-vaccination reactions include:

• Pain, redness, swelling at the injection site
• Fever, chills
• Headaches, muscle pain, joint pain
• Tiredness
• Lymph node swelling at neck or arms

The majority of the side effects are mild or moderate and they will usually resolve spontaneously within 1 to 3 days. Paracetamol and rest may be all that is necessary to manage the symptoms.

Very rarely, this vaccine can cause a severe allergic reaction.

You will now be able to choose between the two brands of vaccine which are available in Singapore.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines have met the stringent safety and efficacy criteria required by the Health Sciences Authority. However, please be aware that there are slight differences between the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccine (e.g age group eligibility and the time interval between the 2 doses).

The Moderna vaccine is being given at 11 out of 38 centres, while the rest are using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. If you wish to choose which COVID-19 vaccine to take, you can now refer to the Ministry of Health’s (MOH’s) website where the full list of vaccination centres and vaccines has now been made available. Each vaccination centre will only stock and administer one type of vaccine, and when making your appointments for the vaccination, you will need to select the same vaccination centre for both the first and second doses.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has set up multiple vaccination centres across the island.

The mass vaccination programme has been rolled out in phases. It commenced with healthcare workers on the 30th December 2020, and vaccinations for the elderly started on 27th January 2021. Two-thirds of the population have now been vaccinated and the programme has been extended to the rest of the population, including Permanent Residents and long-term pass holders aged 12 – 39 years.

If you are eligible, you can register your interest to be vaccinated at vaccine.gov.sg.

Singapore aims to complete the COVID-19 vaccinations by the third quarter of 2021.

There is a risk of serious, life-threatening disease and death from COVID-19 infection , especially in the elderly and other vulnerable groups (e.g. people with comorbidities).

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is one way to prevent you contracting the disease, minimize the risk of spreading it to others around you, and prevent the country’s healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

It is important for us to achieve as high a level of population coverage as possible in order to provide protection for the majority of our population. A population with high vaccination coverage against COVID-19 will indirectly protect those who are unable to receive COVID-19 vaccination (e.g. severely immunocompromised individuals, subgroups such as children where safety data is not available), as the risk of the transmission of the disease will be greatly reduced.

Individuals who have recovered from an earlier COVID-19 infection are recommended to receive a single dose of vaccine. Evidence has indicated that a single dose would further boost their immunity against COVID-19.

You are advised to consider waiting for at least 1 month after completing your second dose before trying to conceive, out of an abundance of caution. This does not apply to male vaccine recipients.

Yes you can.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech / Comirnaty and Moderna COVIID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines. As mRNA vaccines are not live vaccines, they are biologically unlikely to adversely affect breastfed babies. In addition, the breast milk of vaccinated mothers may help to protect their babies from COVID-19 due to antibodies in the breast milk. There have also been no vaccine-related side effects reported in babies who were breastfed by mothers who received the vaccine while breastfeeding.

 

 

Once vaccinated in Singapore, your vaccination status is recorded in the National Immunisation Registry. It will then be shown in the updated TraceTogether app/ token. This can be shown at venues or events which require your vaccination status to enter. A downloadable version is also available on the HealthHub website/app.

The physical vaccination card that is given to you after each dose of your vaccination is not meant to be used for travel purposes or proof of vaccination.

For purposes of travel, you can request for a digital vaccination certificate from Notarise. This will be sent to your email and/or SingPass app, and can also be printed out.  Please be aware that the use of this digital vaccination certificate is subject to the prevailing entry requirements of your destination country.

While there is evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing symptomatic disease, the extent of their ability in preventing transmission to others is still being studied.

Hence, those who are vaccinated should still continue to adhere to public health and general safe management measures.

The Singapore Government and the Ministry of Health are actively engaging international counterparts and monitoring global developments on the development and recognition of digital vaccination certificates for travel purposes.

Different countries and regions have different entry requirements  Please check the entry requirements of your destination country before you travel.

 

Osler Health can help you get your vaccination from abroad verified in Singapore. Please make an appointment and bring documentary proof of your vaccination. You will then require a serology test (blood test). Once we receive a positive result confirming your immunity, we will submit your vaccination details to the National Immunisation Registry.  Your vaccination status on HealthHub will then be automatically updated. It will also be reflected in the TractTogether App.  Call us to arrange.