We’d been in Singapore since September so we weren’t surprised when Rebecca received the call last week.
We were to report to the Queenstown Community Centre at 7 pm on Wednesday for the first of our vaccinations.
We didn’t know which vaccine but a surprisingly knowledgeable Grab driver set us straight Saturday.
Driver: “You got your shots-ah?
My wife: “We will, this Wednesday. But we don’t know what we’re getting.”
Driver: “Where getting the shot?”
(He’s thumbing through his phone while continuing to drive. Unnerving, to say the least.)
Driver: “Ah that, Pfizer only. Only four places got Moderna-one”
(Waves his phone at us as if that clinches it. We nod, dumbly, and suspect he’s right.)
The Queenstown Community Centre is many things to the neighbourhood. There is a small mosque, two tennis courts, notices announcing everything from yoga to acupuncture; numerous rooms for presumably those purposes and a large, cavernous hall that’s been set up for mass vaccination.
It’s extremely efficient. At our first stop, they peruse our IDs and elicit a brief medical history. They just want to know if we have had or are being treated for cancers or any autoimmune disease. That would, apparently, rule us out.
Then they want to know about allergies, specifically, those that cause anaphylaxis or severe breathing difficulties. I reply no but I do have those that cause “hives” and they say that’s fine.
Nasty, they admit, but OK.
We’d come prepared. An hour before, we’d both taken two paracetamol (Panadol, in another word) on advice from my doctor-niece. I’d also added an antihistamine.
You can never be too careful.
We joined those in line for their shots. There were chairs in socially distanced rows so it was a comfortable wait. Our peers were mostly elderly – ourselves, in another word – and some were accompanied by their children.
In Singaporean terms, these were Heartlanders, the ones who stay in HDB apartments, the brick and mortar of the People’s Action Party.
It took about 15 minutes before my wife was called and a sympathetic attendant asked me if she needed me to hold her hand.
“Are you kidding?” I replied. “If anything, I’ll need her to hold mine!”
That got a laugh, at least. When my turn came, the nurse pointed out the potential side effects – pain at the jab-site, headache, body ache and, rarely, fever – and again went through its contra-indications.
I think she must have applied some local anaesthetic on my left arm as well because I didn’t feel a thing.
More sitting around followed. Both of us felt fine although my wife’s arm was quite sore. But her ache disappeared the next day. We both felt sleepy though and had an early night.
I didn’t get off scot free, however, The next evening. I had an allergic reaction with hives. Thankfully, I was fine on Good Friday but not without the aid of a trusty antihistamine.
You got to hand it to Singapore. When vaccines began to be first approved worldwide, the republic went about purchasing Pfizer, Moderna and even the one from China.
But only the first two have been used with the Chinese vaccine yet to be approved. The point: Singapore bought first so that it wouldn’t have to wait.
I asked the nurse how many people she’d vaccinated that day and she shrugged tiredly: “Countless.”
I believe her: officially, the republic estimates it can vaccinate 80% of its population by June.