COVID-19 Updates: Vaccines, Fake News and Increased Air Travel

Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels
Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels

There’s been quite a bit of buzzing about the COVID-19 vaccines and air travel this week, so here’s what you may have missed.

1,050 Home Team frontline healthcare officers to get COVID-19 vaccine over coming weeks

As part of Singaporeā€™s strategy to vaccinate healthcare workers and frontliners, about 1,50 frontline healthcare officers from the Home Team will receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.

These individuals that have been identified include the Singapore Civil Defence Forceā€™s (SCDF) Emergency Medical Services (EMS) officers, staff from the Home Team Medical Services Division and Singapore Prison Service medical services division officers.

Frontline officers from the Home Team Science and Technology Agency who run laboratory tests on swab samples from travellers will also get the vaccine.

1,123 officers were initially identified for the vaccination, and 94 per cent agreed to receive the jab. The first eighty officers were vaccinated on 11 January, and the entire exercise for all 1,050 officers is expected to take about six weeks, including the second dose.

Officers who have received the vaccination will be monitored for 30 minutes for any adverse reactions and will be scheduled to receive their second dose in about three weeks. They were previously screened for their eligibility based on their medical history and pre-existing medical conditions.

Ren Ci nursing home staff get COVID-19 vaccinations, among first in community care sector

Moving to the community care sector, 50 staff members from the Ren Ci nursing home in Bukit Batok were also vaccinated on Monday, making them the first of community care workers to receive the jab. The staff were asked about their willingness to receive the vaccine during an online town hall last week, where four out of five staff members chose to be vaccinated.

The homeā€™s assistant director of nursing, Elsie Teo, was the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. ā€œAfter almost a year of dealing with COVID-19, I am glad that we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel with the development of the vaccine,ā€ she said. ā€œI am thankful we are prioritised to be vaccinated now. It gives me added assurance on top of existing safe management measures that I can continue to deliver safe care to the residents in the nursing home.ā€

The vaccines were administered at the home by Ren Ciā€™s internal team, in adherence to safety guidelines set by AIC and the Ministry of Health.

The remaining 20 per cent of staff who have not been vaccinated are staff members with existing health conditions, pregnant, undergoing family planning, or currently breastfeeding. Ren Ci said staff at its Ang Mo Kio nursing home and community hospital in Novena will also be vaccinated in the weeks ahead.

Vaccinations for the public to begin soon

Singaporeā€™s chief health scientist, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, has said that COVID-19 vaccination centres for mass vaccinations will be ready soon. The vaccination will also be given at polyclinics and GP clinics.

He explained that this arrangement would make vaccination more convenient and comfortable for Singaporeans, especially the elderly.

Prof Tan also reassured the population that there were enough doses of the vaccine to go around, and thus there was no need for Singaporeans to stretch out a dose, or be given half a dose ā€” which are practices used in some countries to maximise the vaccine supply.

He also urged people to not put off the second dose, even if they experience side effects after the first injection. “The system will be there to remind people to turn up to get a second dose. It is very important for everyone to understand that full protection only takes place if you have two doses, and not just one.” Singaporeans will be able to report their symptoms to vaccination centres, medical practitioners and the Health Sciences Authority.

According to Prof Tan, the vaccine is expected to protect recipients from the virus for about three months, as that is the current extent of the period of observation, but he expects it to provide protection for longer.

“I expect that it will be longer than that. Some of the emerging research […] suggests that immunity will last more than six months, eight months. So we think that it’s not going to be a very short-lived immunity.”

It would take about 40 or 50 minutes in total for one to get vaccinated, from registration to receiving the jab, and another half an hour of observation. “I think people should cater for one hour if you’re having a vaccine, because of the 30-minute observation period,” Prof Tan said.

Important to get information about vaccines from trusted sources

Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, chair of the expert committee on the COVID-19 vaccination, reminded Singaporeans to obtain information about the vaccine from trusted sources.

“We’ve seen some of these circulating messages and a lot of it is based on misinformation and misunderstanding of how vaccines work […] so I would advise people to just go to the trusted sources,ā€ he said. Trusted sources encompass the Ministry of Healthā€™s website, as well as information from mainstream media.

SIA Group carries highest number of passengers since COVID-19 restrictions

As vaccinations are well underway, Singapore has also begun to increase travel capacity. National carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group said that it carried the highest number of passengers on 11 January since COVID-19 border restrictions were implemented.

It announced that overall passenger carriage was about was 97.1 per cent lower year-on-year in December. For the month of December, the group ferried about 85,200 passengers, the highest since travel restrictions kicked in in March.

However, as restrictions on peopleā€™s movement and travel are gradually eased, SIA is expecting to gradually recover, and reach about 25 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels by the end of March, and is looking to fly to around 45 per cent of the destinations that it served before the pandemic.


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