More than 155,000 in Singapore have received first COVID-19 vaccine dose: MOH

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Health Janil Puthucheary addresses Parliament on Monday, 1 February 2021. (SCREENCAP: Ministry of Communications and Information/YouTube)
Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Health Janil Puthucheary addresses Parliament on Monday, 1 February 2021. (SCREENCAP: Ministry of Communications and Information/YouTube)

SINGAPORE — As of Sunday (31 January), more than 155,000 individuals have received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, said Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary in Parliament on Monday.

Dr Janil told the House that MOH plans to set up around 40 vaccination centres, with each centre planned for an estimated capacity of about 2,000 vaccinations per day on average.

“The vaccination centres will be located in high population catchment areas and/or along public transport routes for greater accessibility,” said the SMS, adding that polyclinics and selected Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) will also serve as vaccination sites.

Vaccinations are currently being performed at nine polyclinics and around 20 PHPCs. From Monday, all 20 polyclinics across Singapore will also begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations.

With the elderly in Singapore currently prioritised for vaccination, MOH, the Health Sciences Authority and the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination, have been monitoring international reports on vaccine- related adverse events and deaths in elderly recipients.

“The Norwegian health authorities and the World Health Organisation’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 Janil.

Four cases of anaphylaxis

The SMS was responding to multiple questions filed by Members of Parliament on the country’s vaccine rollout and possible adverse reactions.

Dr Janil told the House that there have been four reported cases of anaphylaxis, or the rapid onset of severe allergic reactions. The individuals, in their 20s and 30s, developed multiple symptoms such as rash, breathlessness, lip swelling, throat tightness and giddiness.

Three of the individuals had a history of allergies, including allergic rhinitis and food allergies, but none had a history of anaphylaxis which would have precluded them from receiving the vaccine.

The SMS added that the symptoms in these four individuals were promptly detected and treated. All have recovered from the episode.

One was under observation for a few hours while the others were discharged from hospital after a day’s observation or treatment. None needed ICU support.

Dr Janil explained that the incidence rate of anaphylaxis locally is about 2.6 per 100,000 doses administered. The incidence rates reported abroad are around one to two per 100,000 doses administered, after they have administered millions of vaccine doses, he added.

“Variations in the incidence rate are to be expected initially when the numbers vaccinated in Singapore to-date are relatively small,” he said, stressing that 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.

“I would point out that almost all adverse events documented from vaccinations tend to have an onset very close to the administration of the vaccination and that's hence why we're monitoring them for 30 minutes and perhaps, we're monitoring them for longer than necessary at 30 minutes,” said Dr Janil, in response to a suggestion by Dr Lim Wee Kiak, Sembawang GRC MP, on introducing surveys for those vaccinated to fill up on possible side effects.

Singapore’s vaccine supply

Dr Janil reiterated that Singapore has signed advance purchase agreements with Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Sinovac, and is in discussions with “a few other” pharmaceutical companies. He declined to reveal more on the specific quantity of the vaccines ordered or the delivery schedules due to commercial sensitivities and confidentiality undertakings.

“While there will be some delays to the shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines due to the upgrading of Pfizer’s manufacturing plant, we will continue to monitor our supplies closely to meet our target of vaccinating all Singaporeans and long-term residents in Singapore by the end of 2021,” said Dr Janil.

He added that wastage rates of the vaccines are “low and well-managed” but did not share specific numbers.

Dr Janil also addressed the issue of Singaporeans wanting to get vaccinated early as they wish to travel overseas for personal reasons.

“At this point, when vaccine supplies are limited, we need to prioritise our healthcare and frontline workers, and seniors, for vaccination. We are therefore unable to provide vaccines at this time to these Singaporeans and seek their understanding,” said Dr Janil.

But authorities may consider opening up a waitlist for those who urgently need to travel overseas – be it for health, studies, or for compassionate grounds – and wish to go for early vaccination, he added.

“It is something to be considered. We will be opening up the registration process, and we will be looking for an indication of interest from members of the public who are eligible in this phase, as well as in the future,” said Dr Janil.

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