SINGAPORE: There have been four reported cases of anaphylaxis in people who received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said in Parliament on Monday (Feb 1) in Parliament.
This is one more than the number reported last week when the Ministry of Health (MOH) gave an update on the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Singapore.
Dr Puthucheary was responding to parliamentary questions filed by 12 Members of Parliament who had asked for an update on the progress of vaccination as well as the side effects people have encountered to date.
READ: 3 people experienced severe allergic reaction to COVID-19 vaccine; symptoms 'promptly detected and treated'
Of the more than 155,000 people who have received at least the first injection of the two-dose vaccine, there were four reported cases of anaphylaxis, or the rapid onset of severe allergic reactions.
The individuals, in their 20s and 30s, developed rashes, breathlessness, lip swelling, throat tightness and giddiness, he said. The symptoms were "promptly detected and treated" and all have recovered, said Dr Puthucheary.
"One was under observation for a few hours while the others were discharged from the hospital after a day’s observation or treatment. None needed ICU support," he added.
Three of them had a history of allergies, including allergic rhinitis and food allergy such as to shellfish, but none had a history of anaphylaxis which would have precluded them from receiving the vaccine.
The incidence rate of anaphylaxis here is about 2.6 per 100,000 vaccine doses administered. In contrast, the incidence rates reported abroad is around 1 to 2 per 100,000 doses, after millions of people have received their jabs.
Variations in the incidence rate are to be expected initially when the number vaccinated in Singapore to-date is small compared to other countries, he said.
"Currently, the benefits of getting vaccinated to protect oneself from the effects of severe COVID-19 disease and its complications far outweigh the risk of any potential adverse events known to be associated with vaccination," said Dr Puthucheary.
"We will continue to closely monitor the safety of the vaccine and ensure the vaccines used in Singapore are safe for our population groups."
The minister said that as with other vaccines, people who receive the COVID-19 vaccine may experience injection site pain and swelling, fever, headache, fatigue, and body aches, which usually subside within a few days.
Explaining the vaccination process, Dr Puthucheary said that everyone has to go through a screening process at the vaccination site before being vaccinated.
Each person will have to declare their relevant medical conditions based on the vaccination screening form provided. A final check on the individual’s suitability and fitness for vaccination will be done by a trained healthcare personnel at the vaccination centre or polyclinic.
"These personnel will have on-site access to an individual’s salient medical history in the National Electronic Health Records if necessary, before the individual is allowed to be vaccinated," he said.
DOCTORS SHOULD REVIEW MEDICAL HISTORY OF SENIORS CAREFULLY
MOH will continue to offer COVID-19 vaccination to seniors, said Dr Puthucheary in response to a question by MP Dennis Tan (WP-Hougang) about reported deaths of elderly patients in Norway after taking the Pfizer vaccine.
The Norwegian health authorities and the World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety have found no evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine contributes to an increased risk of death in the elderly, said Dr Puthucheary.
"It is important to vaccinate and protect seniors, as COVID-19 infection in the elderly has been observed to result in severe or fatal illness," he said.
But he added that MOH has reiterated to vaccination providers that doctors should review the medical history of seniors to confirm that they are suitable for vaccination, and that they should be monitored closely right after vaccination.
Vaccination for seniors began last week with pilots in Tanjong Pagar and Ang Mo Kio.
READ: Singapore starts vaccinating seniors against COVID-19 with pilot exercises in Tanjong Pagar, Ang Mo Kio
CALL MOH HOTLINE IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS
In response to a question from NCMP Hazel Poa (PSP) on whether a COVID-19 vaccination advisory service can be provided, Dr Puthucheary said that members of the public may call the MOH COVID-19 hotline if they have any medical queries. They may also consult their family doctor.
"They will be able to advise any individual on vaccine-related queries, including evaluating their specific individual suitability for vaccinations," he said.
The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination has recommended that pregnant women, children below 16 years of age, or those with a history of anaphylaxis or severe allergies not take the vaccine at this stage.
People who are unwell or have had a fever in the last 24 hours are also advised to postpone their vaccination until they have recovered.