What employers need to know about the Covid-19 vaccine in Singapore

May 24, 2021

by 

The moment Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine in Singapore, everybody's eyes were lit up. Chat groups were flooded with travel plans and pictures.

The vaccine could spell the end of a nearly 2-year long pandemic to Singaporeans that has grounded us with travel restrictions. All of us look forward to the days we can fly again.

Shortly after the announcement, many scepticism and confusion emerged when rumours of the vaccine's side effects were spread widely.

As an employer, you are probably wondering whether your employees would be safe to work after the vaccination and your role and rights in the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme. 

In this article, we will answer some of your burning questions:

  • What is the Covid-19 vaccine and how does it work?
  • What are the side effects of the vaccine?
  • How to find out which vaccine is right for your employees?
  • What are your employer rights in Singapore vaccination?
  • What is your role as an employer?

1. How does the Coronavirus vaccine work?

Many people see the vaccine as a cure, but it's not quite right. A cure is a substance that kills the bad bacteria causing your illness.

A Covid-19 vaccine is actually a weakened non-dangerous fragment of Covid-19 bacteria that triggers your body to build its own antibodies to fight against the infection.

Vaccines work by using our body's immune system to create our own antibodies.


2. What are the side effects of the vaccine?

There are 3 types of vaccines currently administered in Singapore: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Astra-Zeneca.

There is a small chance that the vaccines could cause severe allergic reactions. They usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after getting a dose of the vaccine. Your employees will be monitored for 30 minutes at the vaccination centre in case allergic reactions happen. 

Side effects of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine:

  • severe allergic reactions such as breathing difficulty, face or throat swelling, fast heartbeat, bad rash all over the body, or dizziness
  • non-severe allergic reactions such as rash, itching, hives, or swelling of the face
  • injection site pain
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • chills
  • joint pain
  • fever
  • injection site swelling or redness
  • nausea
  • feeling unwell
  • swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • arm pain

Side effects of Moderna vaccine:

  • severe allergic reactions such as breathing difficulty, face or throat swelling, fast heartbeat, bad rash all over the body, or dizziness
  • Injection site reactions: pain, tenderness and swelling of the lymph nodes in the same arm of the injection, swelling (hardness), and redness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Chills
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fever

Side effects of Astra-Zeneca vaccine:

  • Redness, pain, itchy, or swelling at the injection site
  • fever
  • headache
  • tiredness
  • muscle aches
  • join pain
  • chills
  • nausea/vomiting

Download each of the vaccine's fact sheets below to learn more about the vaccines:

Pfizer-BioNTech Fact Sheet | Moderna Fact Sheet | Astra-Zeneca Fact Sheet

3. What’s the difference between Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Astra-Zeneca?

Are all Covid-19 vaccines equal? If not, how are they different? 

The following table summarises the differences quite well:


What do mRNA and Adenovirus mean?

mRNA and Adenovirus are different technologies used to create these vaccines. Both of them teach our cells to make proteins that trigger our immune systems to act against the Covid-19 infection. 

The difference is how they do this: mRNA stores a part of the genetic code of the bacteria, whereas Adenovirus uses a weakened non-dangerous bacteria. Both of them do not cause Covid-19, that’s for sure.

4. What are your employer rights in Singapore's Covid-19 Vaccination Programme?

Covid-19 vaccination is recommended but voluntary. Employers should not make vaccination compulsory for their employees, but they can strongly encourage and provide incentives.

Singapore’s Minister of Health, Minister Gan Kim Yong, has stated that employers do not have to review the employee's job scope or redeploy those who decline to take the vaccination unless there is a resurgence of infection.

Employers need to adopt safe management measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection at workplaces such as:

  • work from home as the default mode of working (for at least 50% of an employee’s working time)
  • more than 50% of the employees are working from home at any given point in time
  • vary start and end time
  • allow flexible working hours
  • distribute the team to reduce the number of people at the workplace
  • discourage social and physical interactions
  • encourage employees to take part in the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme

5. What is your role as an employer?

McKinsey has surveyed more than 400 US-based companies to understand what actions employers are taking to support workplace vaccination and which of these actions resonates the strongest with employees. In their findings, three actions stood out most prominently:

  1. Conviction
  2. Convenience
  3. Costlessness

Over 40% of employees indicate employers' actions matter significantly, but most employers didn’t do enough

But what do we mean by conviction, convenience, and costlessness? Most importantly, how your organisation can take more strategic actions?

Conviction

Conviction is a visible commitment by employers seeking to vaccinate their employees. Most of the conviction-building actions rely on your internal communication channels. This allows you to cut through the noise and deliver facts and information straight to their inbox or meetings.

Some of the actions you can take to build conviction are:

  1. Educate on the facts. You can share credible and accessible information on the safety, efficacy, and side effects of the vaccine for Singapore.
  2. Invite healthcare experts to answer employee questions about the vaccination and vaccination centres.
  3. Share vaccination experiences. Create a network of ambassadors to answer questions and share their experiences with those who haven't get vaccinated.
  4. Revise return-to-work policies. In the survey, 54% of employees are willing to return to the office if the employer encourages all employees to be vaccinated.
  5. Showing visible intent to prioritise senior leaders' vaccination.
Convenience

Convenience is the first overlooked factor. Many employees are concerned and worried about the vaccination, and your role as an employer can improve their experience.

What you can do to make vaccination more convenient are:

  1. Share logistical information such as updated details of local vaccination centres, operation hours, links to scheduling sites, or best practices to secure an appointment.
  2. Simplify the vaccination experience. You can help your employees schedule an appointment at a nearby site to reduce wait and travel times, or partner with medical centres to answer questions, ease scheduling, or even offer free rides to the vaccination sites.
  3. Offer on-site vaccination clinics which can expand and accelerate the pace of getting all your employees vaccinated.


Costlessness

Costlessness is the second overlooked factor that some employees may be struggling with. The Covid-19 vaccine in Singapore is free for all residents, but there are some non-monetary costs involved.

Around 12% of employees reported that the time away from work to be vaccinated or due to side effects is a barrier to vaccination.

You can help overcome this barrier by:

  1. Providing sick leaves for vaccine appointments and recovery time.
  2. Offering free rides or public transportation between your office and vaccination centres.
  3. Adjusting working hours to accommodate appointment times.
  4. Rewarding and recognising employees who took vaccines, such as gift cards, cash bonuses, or wellness program points.

Learn more about Singapore’s Vaccination Programme here.

Update: Keep up to date with the latest plan by the government to tackle Covid-19 from PM Lee's latest address on May 31, 2021 here.

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