Netizens raise concerns over vaccine safety and possible long-term complications, wonder if “more guinea pigs” may be needed

The committee of doctors and experts established by the Ministry of Health (MOH) has recommended that entire adult population in Singapore should be vaccinated, but that the vaccinations should be taken up voluntarily, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“The Government has accepted these recommendations. I have personal confidence in our experts,” said Mr Lee in a televised address on Monday (14 December).

He made this remark after he announced that the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore (HSA) has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Noting that “Singapore is one of the first countries to obtain this vaccine”, he said the first shipment of the vaccine is expected to arrive in Singapore by the end of this month, and other vaccines will arrive in the coming months.

“If all goes according to plan, we will have enough vaccines for everyone in Singapore by the third quarter of 2021,” he noted.

Vaccinations, said Mr Lee, will also be “free for all Singaporeans and for all long-term residents who are currently” in the country.

“First priority will be given to those who are at greatest risk — healthcare workers and frontline personnel, as well as the elderly and vulnerable.

“Thereafter, the committee proposes to progressively vaccinate the rest of the population and to cover everyone who wants a vaccination by the end of next year,” he added.

While vaccinations are to be “voluntary”, the Prime Minister “strongly encouraged” the people to get vaccinated when the vaccine is offered to them.

“Because when you get yourself vaccinated, you are not just protecting yourself. You are also doing your part to protect others, especially your loved ones. The more of us are vaccinated, the harder it will be for the virus to spread, and the safer we will all be as a society,” he said.

Mr Lee also assured that the cabinet members will be getting vaccinated in advance to show the people, especially senior that “we believe the vaccines are safe”.

In the MOH’s press release on Monday (14 December), it stated that the Ministry agreed with HSA’s recommendation for the suitability of its use in individuals aged 16 years and above in Singapore.

It, however, noted that “pregnant women, immunocompromised persons and those under the age of 16 should not receive the vaccine yet until more data is available”.

Netizens were quick to pen their thoughts about the PM’s announcement on vaccination on the Facebook page of The Straits Times, Mothership.sg and Yahoo! Singapore.

While most of the netizens welcoming the announcement, some of the netizens raised significant concerns about vaccine safety and possible long-term side effects.

They questioned whether the Government will provide any “back up” if the people who get vaccinated suffer from side effects despite vaccinations being taken up on a voluntary basis.

Wary of the side effects, other netizens expressed their lack of trust in the free vaccines, worrying that “more scapegoat or guinea pigs” may be needed for the new vaccinations.

As such, they suggested that people should “wait out longer and see the long-term effects” before getting vaccinated.

One netizen felt that the vaccination should be made compulsory if found to be safe in order to protect everyone from the pandemic instead of only certain segments of society.

If it is voluntary, the people who choose not to take might affect others.

“Why give the adverse a chance unless the vaccine got some side effects and we are so-called volunteering ourselves to certain risk undisclosed/unknown,” said one netizen.

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