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 Health Science Authority (HSA) has assessed that the Pfizer BioNTech and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines meet safety and efficacy standards, and has authorized their use locally under the Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR) which facilities early access to vaccines and medicines during a pandemic.

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.

In Singapore, all citizens and long-term residents who meet the eligibility criteria can have the vaccine free of charge.

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 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 not be able to choose the brand of vaccine you receive.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines have met the stringent safety and efficacy criteria required by the Health Sciences Authority. In administering the vaccination programme, the Ministry of Health will consider which vaccines are most appropriate for different population subgroups in Singapore.

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. Seniors aged 60-69 are currently being vaccinated and vaccinations for the general public are expected to begin in April 2021.

If you are a Singapore resident aged 45 - 59 years, you can now 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.

Currently available data do not indicate any safety concerns or risks of vaccination in those with prior COVID-19 infection.

Those with prior COVID-19 infection will have acquired natural immunity, and this protection can last for at least 3 months after the infection, or even longer. There is no rush to get the vaccine as priority should be given to people who have no immunity.

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. Out of an abundance of caution, you can consider suspending breastfeeding for 5 to 7 days after receiving the vaccine. However, if you feel that you cannot suspend breastfeeding and still wish to get vaccinated, you may do so.

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.

Different countries and regions have different travel restrictions and requirements. Please verify the destination country's restriction and requirements before you travel.