SINGAPORE: Senior staff nurse Sarah Lim became the first person in Singapore to receive a COVID-19 vaccination on Wednesday (Dec 30), with a total of 40 healthcare workers at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) receiving the jab.
They are getting their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by United States pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech. This vaccine requires two injections, given 21 days apart. Those who receive the first dose on Wednesday are scheduled to return for their second dose on Jan 20 next year.
Ms Lim, 46, is stationed at the Special Precaution Area at NCID’s Clinic J, and carries out screening for suspect COVID-19 cases. It was a straightforward process for her to get the jab, with the nurse administering the injection asking her to "relax" as she rolled up her sleeve.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, she performed pre-screening, triage and carried out procedures such as blood-taking and electrocardiograms. She also coordinated clinic operations at the Special Precaution Area at NCID’s Clinic J.
Dr Kalisvar Marimuthu, a 43-year-old senior consultant who manages suspect and confirmed COVID-19 cases, was also vaccinated on Wednesday.
He specialises in infectious diseases and infection control and was also involved in managing infection control in the Community Care Facilities.
NCID senior staff nurse Mohamed Firdaus Mohamed Salleh, 38, was also vaccinated. The ICU nurse currently looks after COVID-19 patients.
When they arrive for vaccination, the staff will receive a vaccine information sheet and vaccine screening form. While waiting for their turn, they will be asked to fill in their personal particulars, medical information and declaration and consent on the vaccine screening form, said NCID in a fact sheet.
Before the vaccine is administered, the vaccinator will ask the staff member a series of questions related to vaccine eligibility, for the second part of the vaccine screening form.
If they can take the vaccine, the vaccinator will prepare the vaccine and administer it intramuscularly into the staff member’s arm. After receiving the vaccine, staff members will receive a vaccination card and be observed for 30 minutes on site, to ensure that they have “tolerated the vaccine well”, said NCID in the fact sheet.
The remaining NCID staff will be progressively vaccinated, alongside National Healthcare Group management and staff from January, the fact sheet read.
READ: COVID-19: Government accepts committee's recommendations on vaccine strategy, to begin vaccinating healthcare workers from Dec 30
Wednesday’s vaccination exercise comes after the Government accepted all the recommendations of the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination on Dec 27.
Public healthcare institutions – including acute hospitals, community hospitals and polyclinics – as well as private hospitals, will progressively arrange for staff members to be vaccinated within their respective premises, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The Health Ministry also aims to start vaccinating the elderly, beginning with those aged 70 and above, from February next year.
After that, other Singaporeans and long-term residents who are medically eligible will be vaccinated, MOH said. The vaccine is free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents, including long-term work permit holders.
As outlined in the committee’s full recommendation to the Government, the “ultimate goal” of Singapore’s vaccination strategy against COVID-19 is to achieve as high a level of population coverage as possible.
The committee had said this approach protects the maximum number of individuals possible, and will markedly reduce the overall proportion of people susceptible to the disease and the likelihood of uncontrolled chains of transmission in the community.
WATCH: Everyone eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Singapore should get vaccinated, says Expert Committee chair
“A high vaccination coverage in the population also indirectly protects others who may not be suitable for vaccination yet. When vaccines become more widely available, everyone residing in Singapore who is medically eligible for vaccination should be vaccinated, although vaccination should remain voluntary,” the committee said.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently not recommended for pregnant women, those under the age of 16 and immunocompromised individuals.
The first shipment of the vaccine arrived in Singapore on Dec 21, making Singapore the first country in Asia to obtain it.
Other vaccines are also expected to arrive in Singapore in the coming months, and the country “will have enough vaccines for everyone” by the third quarter of next year if all goes according to plan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said in his televised address to the nation on Dec 14.