What To Expect When You Get Vaccinated in Singapore

Singapore Jul 07, 2021

You'll be okay from the first dose, they said. It's the second dose that will really get you, they said. But does this really apply to everyone?

Full disclosure, at the time this was written and published, I've only received my first dose. This piece will be updated once I get my second dose.

I'm a July baby, and for my birthday this year, all I wanted for a present was to get vaccinated. So when the Singapore government announced that my age group can register for the vaccine from 11 June, I was beyond ecstatic.

And then I realised, I had no idea what to expect. Other than the nuggets of information my 60 year old mother shared, what do I need to do in preparation for the appointment? What do I wear? Do I have to go in a fasted state? Is it going to hurt? So I decided to document the process so you don't have to go in blind.

A Little About Me

Where I live, I'm offered the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. I decided to go with Moderna simply because it's a shorter wait and slots were more available. I refuse to engage in the Pfizer vs Moderna discourse because the fact remains, both vaccines are efficient and are likely to produce lasting immunity. Regardless of the vaccine you chose, the administering process is the same, you just have to go to the right vaccination centre for the right vaccine. List of vaccination centres and the vaccine they carry here.

Now back to me. In terms of my health, I'm 28 years old, identify as female and I have a pretty small frame at 146cm. I don't smoke and I don't drink either. I don't have any pre-existing conditions and am in pretty good shape (if I do say so myself).

The First Dose

Time check: 8:52AM

Upon arriving the vaccination centre, the ushers immediately greeted me at the entrance and asked me to check-in via TraceTogether (TT). They also encouraged me to sanitise my hands. Then, they directed me to a registration booth where you'll have to present your NRIC and clarify your details – expect a lot of plastic partitions or plastic shield masks, it was almost like a scene from a sci-fi film.

Staff with protective gear at verification area. Photo credit: CNA

Time check: 8:55AM

Usually once verification is done, you'll be seated to wait for your turn to receive your dose. But my centre was relatively empty (also nobody gets up that early on a Saturday morning) so I was ushered straight into the vaccination booth. Through out this entire process, my journey was smooth with ushers signalling where to go next every step of the way.

Top view of vaccination booth. Photo credit: The Straits Times

Time check: 8:56AM

In just 4 minutes, I'm in the vaccination booth. Even though I'm not afraid of needles, I start to sweat out of nervousness. My healthcare personnel asks me questions – Am I pregnant? Any known allergies to medication? Have I received any other vaccinations in the last two weeks? No, no, and no.

She goes on a spiel on some after care – no strenuous exercise for 7 days, in case of rash immediately go to the doctor, persistent fever after 2 days immediately go to the doctor. Potential side effects – muscle aches, fever and fatigue, all of which I was boldly confident would not apply to me because everyone who received their first dose before me says, "The first dose is nothing". Spoiler alert, the first dose was definitely NOT nothing.

Time check: 8:57AM

She sanitises her hands, grabs hold of the syringe, removes the needle cap and soothingly tells me to take a deep breath.

Yes, I created a TikTok documenting the process

Because the needle is so thin, I barely felt anything throughout the 5 seconds. If you're afraid of needles, this should calm you a little! Once she was done, she placed a band-aid over the injection site and just like that, I received my first dose – all before 9AM! Talk about efficiency.

Time check: 8:58AM-9:28AM

For the next 30 minutes, you'll have to be under observation in case you show any allergy symptoms or reactions to the vaccine. I was ushered to the seating area where I was handed a bottle of water and was told to chill out.

Observation area giving major flashbacks of school exam set ups. Photo credit: CNA

Once my thirty minutes was up (I showed no symptoms or reactions), I walked home with my vaccination card.

The perfect birthday present for 2021

If you're waiting for your first dose, here's the biggest take away on things to do or bring before your appointment:

  • Bring your identity card (IC)
  • Bring your mobile phone or TT token for check-in purposes
  • Bring something to entertain you during observation (book or headphones)
  • Have a meal before you go (you don't have to be in a fasted state)
  • Wear comfy clothing and bring an outer in case it gets cold
  • If you're prone to side effects, book a ride home and avoid public transport
  • Also if you're prone to side effects, visit your panel clinic after and get an MC to take the day off

My friends in the healthcare sector advised me to take a paracetamol after the first dose, just in case. Others have also informed me that they were not allowed to consume alcohol for a week, and some also received a pamphlet with more in-depth details on after care.

After care pamphlet by MOH

3 Hours Post Shot, Time Check: 12PM

Still feeling confident that I was immune to the side effects, I went about my Saturday morning the same way I normally would. I had some tea, ate some snacks, watched TV and did some vacuuming and other household chores. I did take paracetamol once I got home, with much persuasion from my friends.

But once I hit the 3 hour mark, the side effects burst my bubble. The injection site felt warm to the touch and got even warmer over a span of 30 minutes, so I decided to ice it. Then the muscle ache began, but thankfully it was only at the injection site.

Comforting the injection site with an ice pack

It was all manageable and not at all affecting my quality of life, so I didn't think much of it.

13 Hours Post Shot, Time Check: 1oPM

In the next 10 hours, I watched a film, went grocery shopping and cooked. This entire time, I only felt the muscle ache at the injection site. No fever, fatigue or any of that.

But once it hit 10PM, I started to feel light headed. I was playing Taboo with my family (for real my family and I play board games) and I realised my body temperature started to increase. My lymph-nodes also started to swell, my eyes were bloodshot and teary, and my entire body was aching. It felt like I was in a state of delirium where I felt light and warm, as if I had been without sleep for a few days.

So much for, "the first dose is nothing" 

At this point my temperature was at 37.7 degrees celsius (my baseline is usually 36 degrees celsius), so I took another dose of paracetamol to subside the fever symptoms and went to sleep hoping to feel better in the morning.

24 Hours Post Shot, Time Check: 10AM

My sleep was relatively undisturbed. I managed to go into deep sleep, and woke up no more than twice. During these midnight wakes though, I was extremely parched and fatigued. I had to drag myself out of bed to chug down a glass of water.

The next morning, I was mindful of sudden movements and got out of bed slowly and consciously. I stood up, and waited a moment. No light headedness. So far so good. I walked to my bathroom and brushed my teeth. Still going strong. Checked my lymph-nodes, and the swelling seem to have significantly subsided.

By the time I was done with breakfast, I felt almost 100%, with the only side effects left being the muscle ache at the injection site and fatigue, which only went away the next day.


The Second Dose

If the first dose was anything to go by, I'm definitely clearing my schedule to rest for 2 to 3 days post the second dose. Or maybe it won't be that bad for me. We'll found out as soon as I go for my second appointment.

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Fizah Hatman

Marketing Manager at Hmlet. Keeping up with pop culture, the news and TikTok.