It’s finally our turn to get jabbed

The first person in Singapore to get jabbed with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was senior staff nurse Sarah Lim on Wednesday 30 Dec 2020, together with 39 other healthcare workers from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).

Since then, the government has progressively rolled out vaccinations to other healthcare and essential workers. For the general population, the vaccination programme started on 27 Feb 2021 for those 70 years and older, and has been progressively extended to younger residents. By 24 Mar 2021, 310,000 individuals (~5% of total resident population) had received their second dose and pre-registration for the 45 to 59 age group was announced.

We anticipated a mad rush of people immediately logging on to the website, so we waited for a couple of weeks for the frenzy to die down before registering our intent at https://preregister.vaccine.gov.sg.

The instructions were straightforward and included some expectations management, given the high demand and limited supply of approved vaccines.

All four official languages were included and covered the same information. Well, at least I assume they all did. While I’m good with English and Mandarin, and can scrape by with basic Malay, I have zero knowledge of Tamil.

It was interesting to compare the information density of the four languages. In terms of space covered, Mandarin was the most dense, followed by English, Malay and Tamil, with the latter taking up almost twice the space to convey the same information.

What does this have to do with the vaccine? Nothing. Just a random thought that popped up in my mind.

We submitted our personal and contact information …

… and immediately received an SMS confirming our pre-registration.

There were online articles about how some people had been waiting for weeks and weeks without any updates, and so we were expecting some time before it reached our turn. However, in less than ten days, we received SMSes with individually-customised codes, inviting us to book our vaccination slots online at https://appointment.vaccine.gov.sg.

The website included some basic information about the two approved vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both based on mRNA technology), a short health advisory and MOH contact numbers.

After entering my customised code and NRIC number, I was asked to complete an online health questionnaire checking if I had any medical conditions causing severe immunocompromise and past life-threatening allergies. The final section comprised patient declaration and consent checkboxes, including a link to an information sheet (attached below) on risks, benefits and side effects.

Once I was deemed eligible, I was able to choose the specific clinic to get my jabs and fix exact timings for both the 1st and 2nd appointments. When the vaccination programme was first rolled out, the government had stated that residents wouldn’t get to choose which vaccine to be administered.

But by the time we registered, they had released a list of vaccinations centres with names of the single vaccine brand available at each location. Which meant that you effectively got to choose the specific vaccine by choosing the vaccination centre that carried it.

After choosing the vaccination centre and timings for the 1st and 2nd appointments, I received an SMS confirmation with my selections.

Overall, the registration process was quick and efficient, and definitely much smoother than most other countries. The only thing left is to turn up, get jabbed and start building up antibodies.

Image credits: Singapore Ministry of Health, Singapore GovTech

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