In January 2021, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the vaccine injury financial assistance programme (VIFAP) to provide financial assistance for affected persons in the rare event of serious side effects that are assessed to be related to COVID-19 vaccines administered in Singapore.
To be clear, MOH has stated that it is introducing this programme to give greater peace of mind for those in Singapore who choose to take the vaccination, and not because taking the vaccination may cause serious side effects. Similar to other vaccinations that we take, whether as children or adults, any vaccinations can cause side effects.
According to Health Science Authority (HSA)’s Safety Updates on COVID-19 Vaccines, more than 7,567,466 doses of the approved vaccines have been administered. Out of which 9,403 (0.12%) suspected adverse events were reported and only 389 (0.005%) were classified as serious adverse events. Most of these reports were for regular symptoms such as injection site pain and swelling, fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, giddiness, nausea and allergic reactions (such as itch, rash, swelling of eyes/lip). These symptoms generally resolved on their own within a few days.
One case which garnered significant media attention involved a 16-year-old male who suffered a cardiac arrest six days after his first vaccination dose. This case is assessed to be eligible to receive the highest tier of VIFAP payouts. According to MOH statements to Straits Times and Today, $782,000 has been paid out via VIFAP to eligible applicants, of which only 2 cases were assessed to be of the severity eligible for the highest tier of payouts.
As MOH also highlighted in their media release, “the benefits of getting vaccinated to protect oneself from the effects of severe COVID-19 disease and its complications far outweigh the risk of any potential adverse events known to be associated with vaccination.”
According to MOH’s parliamentary statement, 102 cases out of 267 applications have received financial assistance (totalling $451,000) under the scheme, s of 25 June 2021.
What The Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (VIFAP) Covers Us For?
The vaccine injury financial assistance programme (VIFAP) provides us on three levels of coverage.
#1 A one-time pay-out of $225,000 will be provided to an individual who dies or suffers permanent severe disability as a result of COVID-19 vaccination.
#2 A one-time pay-out of up to $10,000 will be provided to an eligible individual who is hospitalised requiring care in the High Dependency or Intensive Care Unit but subsequently recovers from medically significant serious side effects; and
#3 A one-time pay-out of $2,000 will be provided to an individual who requires inpatient hospitalisation and medical intervention, with subsequent recovery (excluding observation in A&E, without subsequent inpatient admission or medical intervention)
Who Is Covered Under The Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (VIFAP)?
To qualify for the vaccine injury financial assistance programme (VIFAP), individuals must be Singapore Citizen, Permanent Resident or long-term pass holder who has received an approved COVID-19 vaccination in Singapore. Also, the side effects have to be serious that is potentially life-threatening or fatal and requires hospitalisation or has caused persistent incapacity or disability. The serious side effects must be assessed by a doctor to be linked to the individual’s COVID-19 vaccination.
While short-term pass holders are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccination, they are not covered under VIFAP.
For VIFAP application, MOH has appointed an independent clinical panel comprising experts in relevant fields such as neurology, immunology and infectious diseases to assess and VIFAP applications.
As of 31 May 2021 Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) press conference, the vaccination recommendations for various groups are being reviewed. While previously not recommended for 1) pregnant women, 2) severely immunocompromised persons, and 3)children under the age of 16 years for now, these guidelines are revised.
Students can be vaccinated from 1 June 2021 onwards, with priority to students sitting for their O, N and A level examinations as well as special needs students. Pregnant women and breastfeeding women are also able to be vaccinated. Cancer patients on active treatment can be vaccinated, but should do so in a hospital setting, after assessment by their treating specialists on their suitability for the vaccine.
Currently, vaccinations for Singaporeans are available for both walk-ins and by appointments.
This article was originally published on 1 February 2021 and updated to reflect the latest information.