'Even if they get sick, it'll be less serious': Vaccinated woman who got COVID-19 urges more to get their jabs

'Even if they get sick, it'll be less serious': Vaccinated woman who got COVID-19 urges more to get their jabs

FILE PHOTO: A doctor is vaccinated at Gleneagles hospital during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
FILE PHOTO: A doctor is vaccinated at Gleneagles hospital, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Singapore January 19, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

SINGAPORE: Sometime last month, an elderly woman who only wanted to be known as May discovered that she had contracted the coronavirus.   

She was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, having received her second dose three months before she tested positive. 

“I was very shocked and kept thinking how come I got the virus?” she told CNA. "When I was working, I felt very fine, I had no symptoms … no cough, no flu, no headache, nothing at all.”

May, who is in her 70s, works as a cashier at a restaurant in Tiong Bahru.

Her infection was detected after her employer instructed staff members to get tested before reporting for work. At the time, a growing number of cases had been detected in the area, prompting authorities to conduct testing for staff, tenants and visitors.

After she was swabbed, she went to work, only to be notified hours later that she had tested positive for COVID-19.

She was gripped by fear when she was admitted to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) that evening.

“I was very scared, I didn’t know what to do, what happened to me and what (the hospital) would do with me once I was in there,” said May, who has several chronic diseases.

However, her fears were soon allayed as she did not experience any symptoms, even during her hospital stay.

“I felt very healthy and fine ... I just had to do swab tests, blood tests, checks for blood pressure and oxygen readings,” she said.

In fact, the only medicine she had to take was for her chronic illness.

READ: Return to tighter measures needed as COVID-19 infections likely to 'rise sharply' at current transmission rates: MOH

A week later, she was discharged from the hospital and taken to a community care facility in Loyang, which is the usual arrangement for those who show mild or no symptoms.

According to the Ministry of Health's website, patients in these facilities are monitored closely in case they need to be transferred to hospital for better management and support. Most of them recover with "minimal" intervention, it stated.

May’s experience is not uncommon, and official data shows vaccination can help to prevent serious disease.

“For example, they are less likely to develop fever and less likely to have cough and shortness of breath,” said Dr Barnaby Young, a consultant at NCID.

“We have also observed they have significantly lower measures of inflammation on blood tests and are less likely to develop pneumonia.”

READ: Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 can lessen the severity of symptoms: Experts 

As of Wednesday night (Jul 21), out of the 412 local COVID-19 cases reported in the last 28 days who had been fully vaccinated, all had mild or no symptoms.  

In the partially vaccinated group, 0.7 per cent of patients who had received one dose of the vaccine required supplemental oxygen.

As for those who had not received any dose of the vaccine, 2.4 per cent of the 253 local cases developed serious illness, need oxygen supplementation or admission into intensive care units.

MOH vaccination status of COVID-19 cases
Local COVID-19 cases in the last 28 days by vaccination status and severity of condition. (Figure: MOH)

Currently, COVID-19 treatment is based on the severity of infection, said Dr Young. Remdesivir and dexamethasone are generally reserved for COVID-19 patients with pneumonia who develop low blood oxygen levels, he added. 

Dr Young said NCID is currently studying the outcomes from COVID-19 infection in vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and it will have more data available soon.

SENIORS URGED TO GET VACCINATED

Amid a spike in infections, Singapore has been making a push for more seniors to get vaccinated as they are most at risk of developing serious illness.

During a press conference on Tuesday, co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force Gan Kim Yong said that out of the 81 seniors aged 60 and above who were infected over the last week, 12 were unvaccinated. 

This is of “great concern”, he said, as almost 30 per cent of Singapore’s elderly population, aged above 70, remain unvaccinated. 

The Health Ministry previously said that it would intensify outreach to seniors and encourage them to get vaccinated, by deploying mobile vaccination teams to more heartland locations such as community clubs or residents' committee centres.

Seniors' COVID-19 vaccination
As of Jun 9, Singapore has vaccinated around 44 per cent of its population with at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Three in four seniors above 60 have had their jabs or booked an appointment. (File photo: TODAY/Ili Nadhirah Mansor)

As of Jul 20, more than 6.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Singapore. 

More than 2.7 million people have been fully vaccinated, accounting for around 49 per cent of the population.  

READ: COVID-19 vaccination take-up rate among seniors good but more can be done, say experts 

READ: The Big Read - As COVID-19 becomes endemic, it’s a race against time to get more seniors vaccinated

As for May, who has returned to work, she is keeping her guard up and helping to spread the word about getting vaccinated.

“(When my vaccination appointment) was arranged, I straightaway went for it ... because it’s (safer) for me, my family and for others too,” she said.

“Some think that even if they don’t get (vaccinated), nothing will happen, but then I tell them - you see (I) got COVID,” she said.

“So I encourage them to get vaccinated because it’s better for them and to prevent their family and others from getting sick, and even if they get sick, it’ll be less serious. 

“Last time, I wasn’t so (cautious), so my mask would keep sliding up and down, but after this experience, I know that I need to take care of myself and also take care of other people.”

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Source: CNA/vl(gs)

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