Singapore has announced a one-time payout of $225,000 to citizens and residents in the highly unlikely event they suffer “permanent severe disabilities” as a result of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
The payments will be part of a state-backed program that will provide financial assistance to individuals and their families affected by the vaccines, though officials stressed this has nothing to do with safety concerns.
“While we expect few to need this, we will nevertheless, introduce an injury financial assistance program for COVID-19 vaccinations to provide financial assistance for affected persons in the rare event of serious side effects related to vaccines administered in Singapore,” the health ministry (MOH) announced in an update on Friday.
“We hope this program will give a greater peace of mind for those taking the vaccination.”
In addition to the $225,000 payout, the ministry added that $10,000 would be provided to any patients admitted to hospital intensive care as a result of getting the vaccine.
To qualify, individuals must be Singaporean citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders. They must also have received the COVID-19 vaccination in Singapore, the ministry said.
In very rare cases patients have experienced severe allergic reactions leading to anaphylactic shock but were treated and recovered.
Singapore healthcare workers reported 432 “adverse events” as a result of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, one of several in use across the world. Out of the total, three were reportedly individuals in their 20s and 30s, who suffered severe and “potentially life-threatening” allergic reactions such as breathing difficulties and lip swelling.
“Anaphylaxis is a known but rare side effect of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine,” said MOH medical services director Kenneth Mak.
“All three cases of Anaphylaxis were promptly treated and are well.”
The ministry also said that precautionary measures were in place to ensure that vaccinations were carried out safely.
In December, Singapore became the first country in Asia to approve the Pfizer jab and began a national roll-out on Dec. 30. More than 113,000 people in the Southeast Asian country with a population of nearly six million have received their first dose. Health ministry officials expect numbers to go up as vaccinations continue.
Vaccination is voluntary but citizens and local residents have been strongly encouraged to sign up.
“Vaccination is safe and free, and is suitable for most adults,” said the country’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a video published on his official Facebook page. He encouraged all citizens and residents to get inoculated against the virus.
“By getting vaccinated, you will protect yourself, and your family and friends too. So I encourage [everyone] to get [theirs].”
Lee also revealed that he had received his second and final dose of the vaccine.
“Happy to share that I feel fine but the doctors watched me for 30 minutes afterwards, just in case,” he said.