Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on 14 Dec 2020 that Singapore will receive its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19. The Singapore Government has invested > $1 billion in a portfolio of vaccines and these include vaccines from leading suppliers such as Pfizer BioNTech, Modena and Sinovac. At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved and registered for use in Singapore by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) under the Pandemic Special Access Route.
By the third quarter of 2021, Singapore will have received more than enough vaccines to fully vaccinate all eligible people in Singapore.
IMC has received some advice surrounding the interim authorisation of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine from the Health Sciences Authority Singapore, which we are summarising for you here.
Who will get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine?
As supplies will be limited initially, priority will be for those at highest risk first. Initially, healthcare and other frontline workers and those with medical conditions that render them more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 disease, like the elderly and those with certain chronic medical conditions will be prioritised. It will then be rolled out progressively to the rest of the population based on supply and medical needs.
The Expert Committee on COVID-19 vaccination has recommended that all adults > 16 years old who are residing in Singapore should be vaccinated in order to achieve good community (herd) immunity.
Vaccination will be free for all Singapore citizens and long-term pass holders who want it. Vaccination will be voluntary but all those who are eligible are encouraged to have the vaccine; this will not only protect yourself, but will also ensure a high level of protection nationwide and allow the country to return to normalcy sooner.
The HSA says that until further efficacy and safety data is available the vaccine is not recommended for:
- Pregnant women
- Immune compromised
- Under 16 years old
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been found to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection in the person vaccinated. We are still waiting for data on how effective it is in preventing transmission of the disease to other people and there is still no data on how long the protection will last.
The vaccine is administered by an injection into the muscles and two doses are required 21 days apart.
For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, side effects have been reported to be minor and last less than 48 hours. These may include injection site reactions, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, diarrhoea, and vomiting. At present there is no long-term safety data available. Patients who have had anaphylactic or severe allergic reactions to vaccines should not have the Pfizer vaccine for now.
More information for patients to make an informed choice will be provided later when more details are known. The Health Sciences Authority will continuously review the data and safety of the vaccines both here in Singapore and worldwide. IMC will monitor any future developments and update our patients accordingly.
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This is a significant milestone in our fight against the COVID-19 virus. However, the fight is not yet over and we must not let our guard down yet. Whilst this is a step in the right direction we must remember that Safe Distancing and Safe Management Measures are still of paramount importance.
More information will be provided in the coming weeks and months by the Ministry of Health and IMC will update you as the situation evolves.