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Covid-19: Not all healthcare workers keen on vaccine for now; ‘early days’ as some prefer to wait and see

SINGAPORE — With Singapore’s Covid-19 vaccination exercise underway for nearly two weeks, not all healthcare workers, who are the first to be given access to the vaccine, are keen on getting the jab.

A healthcare worker receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine as Singapore rolls out the vaccination exercise.

A healthcare worker receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine as Singapore rolls out the vaccination exercise.

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  • Three private hospitals here said that 50 to 70 per cent of healthcare workers are willing to get vaccinated now
  • TODAY also spoke to some healthcare workers from public and private hospitals
  • Half of them are undecided about whether to get vaccinated
  • Those undecided said they are worried about the possible long-term side effects
  • Those who want to get vaccinated now said they are doing it to protect themselves and their family


SINGAPORE — With Singapore’s Covid-19 vaccination exercise underway for nearly two weeks, not all healthcare workers, who are the first to be given access to the vaccine, are keen on getting the jab.

In response to queries from TODAY, three private hospital operators here variously said that about 50 to 70 per cent of their healthcare workers have indicated that they want to get the Covid-19 vaccine now.

The figures were given by Farrer Park Hospital, Thomson Medical Centre and Parkway Pantai healthcare group, which runs four private hospitals here. The three operators have a combined manpower strength of more than 9,200.

As of Tuesday evening (Jan 12), the remaining 10 hospitals, which include those from the public sector, had not provided a response to queries TODAY sent on Friday evening last week.

Some undecided healthcare professionals interviewed by TODAY are concerned that the possible long-term effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first Covid-19 vaccine to be rolled out here, have not been studied.

They are also worried that they may be pressured to get the vaccine by their superiors.

Healthcare group Thomson Medical, where its vaccination exercise at its 24-hour family clinic will span a week from Monday this week, said that 70 per cent of its frontline healthcare workers who are suitable for Covid-19 vaccination have agreed to do so.

The Government’s 14-member Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination said last month that pregnant women, anyone under the age of 16 and immuno-compromised persons should not take the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The committee, which was convened to recommend a vaccination strategy for the country, said that it made this recommendation because there is not enough data on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for these groups of people.

Thomson Medical said that it will be vaccinating about 30 employees daily, which include nurses, doctors and staff members doing back-end work.

With a total workforce of 700, it aims to achieve a vaccination rate of at least 95 per cent among its suitable frontline healthcare workers.

Similarly, Parkway Pantai, which kicked off its vaccination exercise last Saturday at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital and Mount Elizabeth Hospital on Orchard Road, said about 70 per cent of its more than 8,000 employees have indicated interest in receiving the vaccine.

It had vaccinated 673 employees as of Tuesday and aims to achieve a vaccination rate of 90 per cent.

Dr Noel Yeo, chief operating officer for Parkway Pantai’s Singapore operations division, who got his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine last Saturday, said that the firm will ramp up outreach efforts to boost uptake, including conducting company-wide meetings and dialogue sessions.

Farrer Park Hospital, which also started its vaccination exercise on Saturday, said that about 50 per cent of its workforce has indicated their interest in getting the vaccine. It vaccinated 73 out of its more than 500 staff members last Saturday.

Ms Chia Puay Choo, director of operations at Farrer Park Hospital, told TODAY she recognised that some staff members may need more time to consider the vaccination.

“It is inevitable that staff will want to have more time to learn more and think about the vaccination. After all, it is a first for everyone.

“However, we are glad our staff members are responsive to the call. They recognise it is important to protect themselves, their family and friends, and society at large,” she said.

Ms Chia said that employees who have not registered for this round of vaccination have time to consider until the next enrolment, tentatively in early February.


TODAY interviewed 10 healthcare workers from both public and private hospitals. Half of them are undecided about getting the vaccine. Most of them cannot be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

The healthcare workers who are undecided said that they are mostly concerned about whether the vaccine has any possible long-term side effects that are not yet known due to its swift development.

They pointed out that there are no long-term studies on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that has been approved for use here and much is still unknown about how this vaccine, which uses new messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology, would affect individuals in the long run.

Then there are those who said that they have chosen to put off getting vaccinated for now because they are planning to get pregnant, which would make them ineligible for the vaccine.

Some healthcare workers also fear that while the vaccination exercise is voluntary, their superiors might eventually pressure them to get vaccinated.

One nurse from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) said: “What’s going to happen to my body in 10 years after I take the vaccine? No one can tell me that.”

One doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the possibility of developing a chronic disease as a result of taking the vaccine could mean burdening his family with healthcare costs, which would be “unacceptable” for someone in his 20s with little savings.

While he acknowledged the importance of public health as a healthcare worker, the doctor, who was the only person among TODAY’s interviewees who had decided not to get vaccinated, said that he would need to know that the Government or his employer would be willing to bear any of the costs that he may incur should he experience any side effects.

Only then would he decide to take the vaccine, he said.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in Parliament last Monday that the Government will be rolling out a vaccine injury financial assistance programme to provide financial aid to those who may suffer from a severe adverse reaction due to the vaccine.

More details on the programme will be announced at a later date.


The remaining half of the healthcare workers interviewed by TODAY were in favour of taking the vaccine now, with some scheduled to get the jab in the coming weeks.

They have chosen to do so because they want to protect themselves, their family and their patients from the coronavirus.

This is especially the case for one Raffles Hospital nurse working in the accident and emergency unit, who does pre-departure swabs there every day.

“There have already been positive cases (from those we swabbed), and we don’t know who is positive so (I decided to take the jab) to protect myself,” she said.

A medical technologist from a public hospital said that she has also decided to get the jab in light of the new B117 Covid-19 strain from the United Kingdom, which spreads much more rapidly.

Ms Uma Chandra Segara, assistant director of nursing at National University Hospital’s emergency medicine department, said: “If you are not willing to be vaccinated, I feel like you are doing a disservice to everyone.”

 The 45-year-old, who received the jab on Monday, added: “I think we should protect our families and friends and we must protect our patients as well.”

Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, who chairs the expert vaccination committee and got the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, said he is hopeful that frontline healthcare workers will join him and get themselves vaccinated.

He was responding to TODAY’s question on whether he was satisfied with the vaccine uptake among frontline healthcare workers, while speaking to reporters after getting his vaccination.

“I think it’s early days, so I'm hopeful that my colleagues will come alongside and proceed to get themselves vaccinated.

“I thought it was important that I came forward early, as part of the committee, to show that I have confidence in the evaluation process... that this is useful,” he said.

Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, Singapore’s chief health scientist and a member of the expert vaccination committee, said on Monday that in addressing reservations people might have against the vaccine, education and information-sharing is important.

He added that it is also imperative to address concerns Singaporeans might have.

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Covid-19 coronavirus coronavirus vaccine healthcare

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