It's official — Singaporeans aged 12 to 39 can register to be vaccinated from Covid-19 from June 11, 2021.
The two Covid-19 vaccines currently in use in Singapore have also been extended to categories of people who previously could not get vaccinated, after a review of local and international vaccination data.
These include those with a history of anaphylaxis, cancer patients undergoing treatment, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, those with Severe Cutaneous Adverse Reactions (SCAR), and those under 16 (though they can only get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and not the one by Moderna, which has an age requirement of 18).
This means that all Singapore citizens and residents are now eligible to be vaccinated, with these exceptions:
- Those below 12
- Those with a severely weakened immune system
- Non-citizen residents aged 12 to 39
So if you've decided to get vaccinated, here's what else you need to know:
Process and timeline
For those under 60, Covid-19 vaccination in Singapore involves the following steps:
- Register your interest (via an online form at preregister.vaccine.gov.sg)
- Receive an acknowledgement from MOH (via SMS, within one business day)
- Get invited to book your appointments (via SMS, with a personalised URL, when there are slots available for booking)
- Choose the vaccine and vaccination location you want, and book your appointments (must book within 14 days of receiving the SMS)
- Receive your first dose of the vaccine
- Wait (around three or four weeks, depending on which vaccine)
- Receive your second dose of the vaccine
- Wait for your body to develop antibodies (note that it typically takes a few weeks for immunity to be built up)
Those above 60, meanwhile, can now walk right in for their first dose at any vaccination centre, without registration or booking.
Yes, you can choose your vaccine
Early this year, it was announced by the Multi-Ministry Taskforce that people in Singapore would not be able to choose the vaccine they receive.
However, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was available at the time.
Since then, the vaccine made by Moderna has started to be administered in Singapore.
It was announced earlier this month that people would be able to choose their vaccine, and that any given vaccination centre, clinic, or polyclinic would only have one type of vaccine.
Differences between the vaccines
Both Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines are mRNA vaccines (or, messenger RNA vaccines) which use material that is genetically coded to "train" our body to fight off Covid-19 infection.
Tests have shown similar efficacy rates of 95 and 94 per cent for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines respectively, and both are administered in two doses.
One difference is that the two doses of the Pfizer vaccine should be taken three weeks apart, whereas for Moderna, the interval should be four weeks.
Thus, if you have a preference for the vaccine you'll be taking, look out for it on the list of vaccination locations.
Meanwhile, the Sinovac vaccine has arrived here, but as of February 24, is still pending a "thorough scientific assessment" by Singapore's health authorities before it can be approved for use.
Find out more about the differences between the different vaccines here:
Choose Moderna to be vaccinated more quickly
Opting for the Moderna vaccine would help with booking a vaccination slot sooner, since those under 18 could only be given the Pfizer vaccine, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Jun. 10 at a press conference.However, Singapore is extending the duration between the first and second vaccine dose from three to four weeks, to six to eight weeks, so as to allow more people to get their first dose.
This applies to vaccination registrations from May 19, 2021.
However, Ong's advice to opt for Moderna would still help to ensure that you get the first shot sooner, with MOH saying that those who have just one dose will still be offered protection from Covid-19, and have a "robust immunological response" while awaiting their second dose so they can be fully vaccinated.
Postpone any other non-Covid-19 vaccination for at least two weeks
One thing to note when you are scheduling your Covid-19 vaccination is that MOH recommends deferring any other vaccinations "for two weeks or more, if possible".
Thus, if you've been planning another vaccination, you may want to schedule it before you proceed for Covid-19 vaccination.
Alternatively, you could complete the Covid-19 vaccination and wait for at least two weeks.
Don't pay "MOH" for your vaccine
Vaccination is free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents in Singapore.
Any other links could potentially come from scammers who are after your money.
"No one should ask you for a payment to register for appointments," said MOH.
Side effects to expect
Certain vaccine side effects are actually healthy signs. They indicate that your body's immune system is working well and responding to the vaccine.
However, that does not mean that the vaccine does not work in someone who has no side effects. The World Health Organisation says:
"Experiencing no side effects doesn’t mean the vaccine is ineffective. It means everybody responds differently."
The common side effects to be expected are:
- Redness or swelling at the injection site
- Muscle pain
These should go away within a few days on their own.
However, there are also more serious side effects to look out for. You should go to the hospital if you experience any of these:
- Symptoms of anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, throat, eyes or lips, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, weakness, or a bad rash)
- Symptoms for more than 48 hours
After second dose, adolescents and younger men should avoid physical activity for a week
On Jun. 11, MOH also announced that adolescents and younger men should avoid strenuous physical activity for a week after their second vaccine dose, saying that there was a "small risk" of this group of people developing heart inflammation, based on data from overseas, as well as four reported cases of men aged 18 to 30 having myocarditis or pericarditis after they received their second jab of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
They should also seek medical attention promptly if they develop chest pain, shortness of breath or abnormal heartbeats.
What if I can't go for the vaccination appointment?
There have been cases where those who booked vaccination appointments did not show up.
This could have happened for unforeseen reasons such as developing or discovering serious allergic reactions, becoming pregnant, or simply being ill on their chosen day of vaccination.
They could also have simply changed their minds about getting vaccinated.
Another possible reason that one might miss their vaccination appointment? Getting quarantined, due to close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.
In such cases, MOH advises you to stay home.
Those who have not taken their first dose can cancel and rebook both appointments using the same booking link issued by SMS.
However, those who have taken their first dose and wish to reschedule the second should call MOH at 1800 333 9999.
Vaccine doses not wasted due to no-shows
It was said in Parliament that only a small number of people did not show up for their vaccination after booking their slots, and such cases did not result in vaccine wastage.
This is because unopened vials can be stored at the vaccination sites for at least three days.
At the sites, new vials are only opened when it is confirmed that there are people awaiting vaccination.
MOH also closely monitors appointment bookings and past take-up rate in order to deliver the appropriate number of vaccine doses to vaccination sites.
Potential perks to look forward to
At the moment, MOH can't conclude whether vaccinated individuals can still transmit infection, which is why getting vaccinated does not mean that you will be afforded much special treatment in everyday life.
You'll still need to wear a mask, and observe safe distancing and other public health regulations.
However, being vaccinated does greatly reduce the odds that you'll be infected, if you are exposed to the SARS-CoV2 virus.
Even in the off-chance that you get infected with Covid-19 after receiving the vaccination, the vaccine can prevent serious symptoms from developing.
This is why vaccination does come with some potential perks, such as:
- Being first in line to travel, when it resumes, and possibly being exempted from Stay-Home Notice when returning from travels.
- Less Covid-19 testing, such as not needing to get tested for Covid-19 before attending a large event like a concert or a sports event.
Ask a friend
There's a ton of Covid-19 and vaccine-related information out there, and it can get complicated or even confusing.
Which is why, at the end of the day, nothing beats hearing it from a friend who's been through it before.
As of Jun. 7, 2021, 2.5 million individuals in Singapore have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including over 1.8 million who received both required doses.
Therefore, the odds are that most people in Singapore are very likely to know someone who received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Who to ask
And if you don't know which of your friends has been vaccinated, here are the categories of people in Singapore who were offered the vaccine early on:
- Cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament
- Healthcare workers
- Frontline workers (which includes taxi and private-hire car drivers, teachers and staff in the education sector, and hawkers)
- Workers in the construction, marine and process sector, as well as migrant workers (MOH is prioritising them for the vaccine as their jobs or settings pose a high risk of a super-spreading event)
- Seniors over 60
If you get the vaccine too, you'll join the growing number of people in Singapore who have a Covid-19 vaccination experience to share.
Top image via MOH