Singapore’s 37,000 frontline aviation, maritime workers prioritised for COVID-19 vaccine

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Plans to provide COVID-19 vaccines to 37,000 frontline workers in the aviation and maritime sectors kicked off yesterday, with vaccination centres for the two industries coming into full swing.

During a visit to one of the vaccination centres at Changi Airport Terminal 4, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said about 13,000 workers from the two sectors are already scheduled to be vaccinated this week under the Sea-Air Vaccination Exercise.

About 2,000 workers from the aviation sector received the vaccine yesterday at T4, while about 1,000 maritime workers were vaccinated at the Raffles City Convention Centre.

“I am encouraged by the number and I hope in the coming weeks more will come,” said Ong, who himself got vaccinated during his visit to T4.

Also getting their jabs yesterday were Singapore Airlines Chief Executive Goh Choon Phong and SATS President and Chief Executive Alex Hungate.

Around 7,000 aviation workers are scheduled to be vaccinated this week.

Priority will be given to the 20,000 frontline workers who may come into contact with travellers from high-risk countries, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).

“These include pilots, cabin crew, airport and aircraft cleaners, security screeners, passenger service agents, baggage handlers and cargo handlers,” said CAAS in a statement to the media.

The authority noted that those who have completed the full course of vaccination will not have to be tested for COVID-19 as regularly.

Those on the seven-day rostered routine testing will only need to be tested every 14 days, while those who are now tested every two weeks will only need to be tested on a monthly basis.

“Air crew who are currently tested on the seventh day after their return to Singapore will be exempted from their test,” said CAAS.

“Those who are tested on arrival in Singapore, and on the third and seventh day, will only need to be tested on arrival, and on the seventh day of their return to Singapore.”

The changes will come into effect two weeks after the workers get their second dose of the vaccine.

At any one time there are about 70 doctors, nurses and healthcare attendants on site at the T4 vaccination centre, said senior physician Dr Tan Joo Peng with Raffles Medical Group, which is conducting the vaccinations.

The centre, which was set up in five days, is able to scale up to conduct more vaccinations should the need arise, he said.

Staff onsite will also screen patients for any risk factors before they receive the vaccine, though so far there have no major side effects, said Dr Tan.

“There’ll be some minor side effects, the most common one is the ache at the deltoid area where they are injected… On and off there will be patients who complain of a minor headache, which is also a known, fairly common symptom,” he said.

Those who show more severe symptoms will be taken to Changi General Hospital, about 10 to 15 minutes away from the airport, said Dr Tan.

One of those who received the first dose of the vaccine yesterday was pilot Anwar Salim, a Singapore Airlines captain.

“For me, I believe being in the front line of the aviation industry we have a duty to protect not just ourselves, but also the people we work with,” he said.

There was no soreness or other side effects after he got the jab, said Anwar.

“I think I can go to the gym later.”