Here’s how it’s like to be waiting to be vaccinated due to medical allergies…
It’s the 12th of August 2021 and I am waiting to be vaccinated and hashtag #IGotMyShot just like everyone else on TikTok or post the mandatory vaccination visit with cool-plaster-on-the-arm shot on Instagram (HAHA, jokes aside…)
On the 6th of August 2021, MOH has released new measures — differentiating the fully vaccinated and unvaccinated in order to protect more of the unvaccinated due to higher risks of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, taking effect from 10th August 2021 onwards.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) had mentioned in early July that it will start relaxing Covid-19 measures as the proportion of vaccinated people start to increase. I believe till date, we have about 70% of the population who are fully vaccinated. Honestly, Singapore has one the fastest vaccination rollouts globally and I am really thankful for that. Kudos to our front liners, backend administrators and vaccine supplies coordinators :)
I belong to the 30% who is not fully vaccinated yet not belonging to the Anti vax gang.
After registering for the vaccine on our government website, I took leave one fine day in July 2021 and I went down to my house’s nearest community centre, hoping to get vaccinated. When it was my turn to see the doctor and register, I was made to read a list of 10 (i think?) questions to ensure that I was eligible.
One of the questions were something along the lines of “Do you have any medical allergies with other vaccines?” and I declared that I was allergic to a Hepatitis B vaccine I took earlier in the year where I had swollen face and had hives/rashes on my neck and cheeks.
“Do you have any medical allergies with other vaccines?”
Without further ado, the two ladies at the register counters both nodded their heads somewhat in sync, seemingly in agreement that I wasn’t suitable to take the Pfizer vaccine.
One of the ladies then dished out the form that looked like this:
She then proceeded to explain that she would help me to make a referral to NUH where I would need to see an allergy specialist to assess my suitability for the mRNA vaccine. After which, I would also receive an SMS confirmation of my appointment within 3–5 working days.Thereafter, I left the vaccination site and went home afterwards, feeling downcast and saddened to know I wasn’t able to take the vaccine that day.
I waited and waited and 5 working days had passed and I hadn’t receive any SMS. I panicked.
I called up NUH allergy clinic to enquire about my referral status and they said that it might take very long due to the high volume of referrals. At this point, a part of me felt that I would definitely not be able to make it for the fully vaccinated privileges. I hung up the phone, feeling anxious and disheartened yet I know that it is unavoidable and inevitable of the manpower constraints. Personally, I wanted to make it for In Person church services of 500 as soon as I could but after hearing this news, I told my church leaders that I might possibly be the last to get vaccinated.
The situation today
I called the NUH allergy doctor (after 9 working days) just to find out how long the wait might get (and slightly panick-y if I had missed a call from NUH) so as to manage expectations on the timeline of getting vaccinated on my end. To my horror, the lady on the phone told me that it might take till October/November before I could see the doctor for assessment.
At this point, I realised how severe the waiting time to get vaccinated was and the shortage of manpower the hospitals were facing. Deep down, I was frustrated and rather helpless due to long period of waiting as well as not being able to resume normal activities like dining out, going to the gym as well as social gathering of more than 2 people. Till date, I am still waiting for a SMS confirmation about the referral status. I really hope I get called by the hospital to have the appointment (which is over Zoom) with the allergy doctor, soon!
I thought I was alone… until I saw some comments on Minister Ong Ye Kung’s Facebook page.
On the 11th of August, Mr Ong Ye Kung addressed some commonly asked questions on his Facebook and Instagram, which I thought was informational and assuring and thoughtful. Thank you Sir for your affirming and assertive tone and how you choose to communicate timely with the right questions and answers and forever appearing calm with your colleagues to address our fellow countrymen over social media and press conferences.
I believe the corner case of having prior medical vaccine allergies (like myself) are not mentioned here due to the small yet significant sample size of us who are facing this issue.
Some who had allergic reactions after taking the first dose of the mRNA vaccines were also facing some frustrations with regards to the next steps as seen in the comments section of Mr Ong Ye Kung’s Facebook post.
Wonder what’s the percentage of the 30% (who are not vaccinated) who either:
(1) need to see an allergy doctor to determine if you can take the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna)
(2) been asked to wait for a call from MOH due to allergies (hives/rashes etc) after taking either one of the mRNA vaccines
The next steps
#IGotMyShot: To those who are fully vaccinated:
If you happen to know of someone who is unvaccinated, we would really appreciate of you to hear those who have not been fully vaccinated out, with empathy and sensitivity. It might just be a situation similar to me where we are not sure what to do but we can only wait.
#IGettingShotSoon: To those planning to get vaccinated soon:
Awesome, go for it soon! Protect your loved ones!
#ISkedToGetShot: To those who have some form of other vaccine allergies and are not planning to get vaccinated:
- You can still register to go down to the vaccination site like myself and get a referral to see the allergy specialist.
- Check with your personal doctor to see if you can take the mRNA vaccine or the 2nd dose of mRNA vaccine.
#DontBeSked: To those who had mild allergy after receiving the first mRNA shot (Pfizer/Moderna):
I am quite sure that you will not be given the scheduled second dose, as mentioned by Minister Ong Ye Kung, in his Facebook post. However, you will be scheduled to wait to take the non mRNA vaccine and be told that you will hear back from MOH.
Just like myself, let’s still continue to call from time to time to check and if the line doesn’t go through, let’s be patient while we wait for the government or hospitals to let us know what our next steps are. It’s okay to eat hawker food in groups of 2 for the next 2 months or so or change our exercise routines to indoor. We’ll (and myself) will make it through like we have did in the past month or so.
Another option to carefully consider, which one of my friend’s friend did, was to head over to Raffles Medical hospital and get the 2nd Pfizer shot for $180. Context: Her allergies from Pfizer was mild which was slight rash and hence she thought it was good to still take the 2nd dose with allergy medications.
*If you know of other options, please please hit me up email@example.com or @jialilee on Telegram. I would love to chat with you!
It is indeed a crisis of our lifetime and I think while we might we feel discriminated or getting the shorter end of the stick, the best way we can show our support is to wait patiently with a smile:) Don’t fear as well, fear does not do any good to ourselves emotionally and mentally. Continue to keep up our immune systems by taking vitamins and veggies, practice social distancing, wear masks, exercise and rest well.
We are together in this wait (at least I am…) praying it will be soon 💛
Other useful information found online
Official government FAQ page of vaccine: https://www.vaccine.gov.sg/faq
A large majority of the 32,000 people here who have not been able to take the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines because of medical reasons will now be able to do so under the national programme, MOH said.
But a minority with a history of anaphylaxis or allergic reactions to other vaccines will still not be eligible.
Another 2,000 people who developed allergic reactions after receiving the first dose of an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine should not receive an mRNA-based vaccine again, the ministry added.
MOH said it is evaluating and will bring in non-mRNA vaccines which are more suited to these individuals.
It expects to do so before the end of the year after the vaccines are approved by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).
(June 4th 2021)
Members of the public can refer to a list of the medical considerations on who should not be vaccinated when they are registering for an appointment on the vaccine.gov.sg website. Medical conditions for which COVID-19 vaccination is not recommended include history of anaphylaxis, transplant within the past three months (solid organ or stem cell), on cancer chemotherapy, immunotherapy or radiation therapy, or HIV infection with CD4 < 200 cells/mL.
(March 16th 2021)