While the majority of eligible Singapore residents are fully vaccinated, among the remaining 15% is a group that is simply ineligible to get an mRNA vaccination due to vaccine allergies.
As a result, they have to wait for an alternative non-mRNA vaccine like Sinovac under a public health programme.
Unfortunately, an individual who was on the waitlist contracted Covid-19 and had to be moved to a CCF, sharing a room with another unvaccinated individual.
Her daughter shared their story with MS News to shed light on the experience of people like her mum, who are still awaiting an alternative vaccine from the public healthcare system.
Like many others, the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy for Leah (not her real name), a 23-year-old in her third year of university.
When her mum, who’s 51 years old, suffered a severe allergic reaction after she took the Pfizer vaccine in May, she was contraindicated by the doctor.
This meant that she would be ineligible to take her 2nd Pfizer dose.
Instead, Leah’s mum was told that she could wait until MOH had stocks of Sinovac vaccines at hospitals.
A text that Leah showed us confirmed as much.
However, during the next 6 months, they were told by MOH – only after calls were made – that there was a lack of Sinovac stocks at public hospitals.
As a result, Leah’s mum has still not received her first Sinovac dose to date.
Unfortunately, while waiting for her turn to get an alternative vaccine, the family’s worst fears were realised and Leah’s mum tested positive for Covid-19 last week.
As she was over 50 years old and only partially vaccinated, she was sent to a community care facility (CCF) at D’Resort in Pasir Ris on 11 Oct.
At the CCF, Leah’s mum has to share the room with another unvaccinated patient.
Sharing a room with a complete stranger took some getting used to.
“For example, the roommate doesn’t want the air-con (temperature) to be too cold, or the roommate doesn’t want to open the window… then you just have to accommodate each other.”
Additionally, the other patient came in with worse symptoms – she was coughing and had a fever – and according to Leah, her mum’s condition worsened as well after.
During the isolation period, Leah’s mum had to be sent to the hospital to get treatment as her condition had become “too bad”, before returning to the CCF after she stabilised.
“It’s not the most comfortable, as family… (to see that) when she’s recovering, there are all these things that she has to consider,” Leah noted.
While dealing with Covid-19 as well as a stranger for a roommate, there was, unfortunately, worse news as her brother went into critical care at the hospital after also testing positive for Covid.
Leah’s uncle’s complications are more severe and he may not pull through.
Leah’s mum’s mental health is also a concern as she has a history of depression, a fact that CCF nurses are aware of.
While Leah is thankful that the nurses make an effort to call and check in with her mum daily, she’s still worried about the effects of isolation away from family.
As her mum is unvaccinated, she has to stay isolated for 14 days — with another 7 days added if she continues to test positive after that.
Due to the family emergency, Leah is in the process of appealing to MOH to allow her mum to rest at home.
“At least if anything happens (to her uncle), she won’t be trapped in the CCF,” Leah said.
But the process hasn’t been easy.
Not only has Leah had to make appeals to the authorities, but she’s also had to send emails and make calls regarding when her mum can get an alternative vaccine, and it’s been a “tiring” process.
“Out of 5 calls you make to MOH, 4 of them will ask you to leave your number and say they’ll get back. Maybe a few (hotline personnel)… are not well-equipped for the info you need.”
The process would repeat until Leah would finally be able to get in touch with senior personnel who can advise her.
Sounding exhausted, Leah said, “As a Gen Z… I try my best to call, email, search up everything I can find, (but) I can’t find any information (regarding alternative Covid-19 vaccines).”
At the same time, she understands that the healthcare system is undergoing extreme strain as well.
Leah hopes that the system for those at CCFs can be improved so that those in a stable condition can be allowed to isolate at home earlier.
“It’s very understandable that maybe a CCF is a better structure to care for these unvaccinated individuals if they don’t need to be in the hospital.”
“But (I) feel very helpless when my mum’s alone in there with a few packets of… medicine, and all we can do is just keep sending food in, even though that’s not helping.”
Leah shared that it’d likely be less worrying if her mum was at home recovering instead, especially since every other household member is vaccinated and there are no vulnerable people at home.
She also hopes that the government can provide more updates on when alternative vaccines will be available, perhaps through a dedicated channel.
“It wasn’t our choice that Sinovac wasn’t in stock, it’s not a choice that my mum is allergic to the vaccine. Can’t really blame anyone, but (the journey has) just been difficult la.”
“I just hope that people are reminded of the fact that some people are just medically unfit to take the vaccine, and we’re all silently waiting for further instructions from the government.”
Unfortunately, Covid-19 did not wait for Leah’s mum to get an alternative vaccine before it struck.
Leah shared that her mum recently received an invitation to get the Sinovac jab at a private healthcare clinic. However, it’s quite unfortunate that she had to wait 6 months with infrequent updates.
Leah’s story is probably not the only one that’s gone unheard. There are definitely many other unvaccinated individuals who are simply unable to get a vaccine at this time for valid reasons.
While the vaccination-differentiated restrictions at malls and hawker centres are completely understandable, the process has undoubtedly been difficult since Leah’s mum has to stay at home.
It is also understandable that vaccine stocks are limited.
But Leah’s struggles are no less important to hear, and we do hope that things will get better for her family.
Have news you must share? Get in touch with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image adapted from Mufid Majnun on Unsplash.
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