SINGAPORE: Senior staff nurse Mohamed Firdaus works in the intensive care unit at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), looking after severely ill patients with COVID-19.
The 38-year-old also has four young children at home, and has been concerned that he could potentially pass on a virus to them.
On Wednesday (Dec 30), Mr Firdaus became one of the first people in Singapore to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, as the country rolled out its inoculation campaign against the coronavirus.
"(The vaccination) gives me assurance that I can come home safely after nursing COVID-positive patients and play with my kids without feeling any fear that I will pass something to them,” said Mr Firdaus, adding that he felt excited and anxious to be among the first to receive the vaccine.
“I handle COVID-19 patients (who are) quite sick. So being vaccinated I feel more assured when taking care of the patient,” said Mr Firdaus.
Adding that he had some concerns when the vaccine was first rolled out, the nurse said he was confident in the Health Sciences' Authority ability to ensure that the vaccine is safe, since it will be given out to many in Singapore.
“All Singaporeans should try and get vaccinated because we have to do our part to curb this COVID-19 spread in Singapore. And I think, to have confidence in our system that the vaccination will be safe for everyone that’s going to take it.”
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"GRATEFUL" TO RECEIVE COVID-19 VACCINE
Singapore began its COVID-19 vaccination exercise on Wednesday, with more than 30 healthcare workers at the NCID set to be the first to receive the shots.
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.
Vaccinations will subsequently be rolled out to more healthcare institutions. This will be followed by vaccinations for the elderly from February. Thereafter, other Singaporeans and long-term residents who are medically eligible for vaccinations can do so.
Several of the NCID healthcare workers who received the shots on Wednesday said they were “grateful” to be among the first in Singapore to be vaccinated, and feel more protected as they go about their work.
Senior staff nurse Sarah Lim, who was the first person to receive the vaccine on Wednesday morning, said the injection felt like an “ant bite”, and did not see any side effects after 30 minutes.
“I think I find that I’m being responsible, being a nurse, to get vaccinated first, so that I can protect others. (For) my patients, delivering my patient care daily, and protecting my family as well as others,” she said.
Speaking to journalists shortly after receiving the jab, Ms Lim said she hopes to encourage others, especially other frontline healthcare workers, to also get vaccinated.
“Being the first one, I feel very grateful,” she said.
The 46-year-old 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.
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.
Dr Marimuthu said he felt thankful, lucky, and “slightly emotional” that he was among the first to receive the vaccine.
“I think the vaccine is potentially a game changer, together with all our masks and physical distancing. Because of all that, yes, I’m feeling very good.”
Speaking to journalists at NCID, he said he feels more protected with the vaccine.
“Infection prevention control is layering the prevention and protection. With our masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing and all, this vaccine is probably the last layer of action for all of us. So in that sense I do feel more confident now, I feel better and I can perform my duty feeling a lot safer,” said Dr Marimuthu.
“It has been a long journey for us to reach here. It has been tough for all of us … We all have lived a year that we’ve never expected. Vaccines managed to bring pandemics down to their knees before, so I’m hopeful that this vaccine will do the same.”
Before taking the vaccine, Dr Marimuthu read up on the vaccine and its reported side effects, also answering questions from his friends and family about some of the concerns patients might have before taking the vaccine.
Noting that a fever or some pain in the next few hours after taking the vaccine means that the body is creating immunogenicity in the body, he also addressed concerns about reported anaphylaxis reaction to the vaccines.
“It's so rare and I know that anaphylaxis is easily treatable with an injection. I know they're going to monitor me after the vaccination, because usually anaphylaxis happens immediately after the vaccination, so I was quite okay with it,” he added.
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Those who received the COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday were monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the shots.
They were also given a QR code, which they can then use to report to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) any symptoms or side effects they experience after receiving the vaccine.