askST: Can I get the Covid-19 vaccine in Singapore if I have allergies or cancer?

SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Health (MOH) eased Covid-19 vaccination guidelines last week, paving the way for cancer patients and those with allergies to receive the jabs.

Announcing the move in a circular to Singapore medical practitioners last Friday (March 12), MOH said that it follows local and international clinical reports on the safety of mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines.

The ministry had previously advised people with multiple allergies to defer receiving mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines, which include the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines approved in Singapore.

The Straits Times tackles some of the frequently asked questions about the change.

Q: Can I be vaccinated if I have allergies?

A: Yes, unless you have a history or risk of anaphylaxis, allergic reactions to other vaccines or certain severe drug reactions.

A person with anaphylaxis – a type of life-threatening reaction – will experience at least two of these symptoms: breathing difficulties, dizziness, hives or swelling of the face, eyelid, lip or throat.

Those at risk of anaphylaxis include people who have a history of being prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector, also known as epi-pen.

Those who have had allergic reactions to other vaccines should also not receive mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines for now, said MOH.

Instead, they should defer vaccination and consult an allergist – a doctor trained to handle allergies – to review their suitability.

People who should not get the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines also include those with a history of Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms, and drug-induced hypersensitivity syndrome.

Meanwhile, people with a family history of anaphylaxis, but who have never experienced the reaction themselves, can receive the vaccination.

Those who have atopy – which includes eczema and asthma – can also be vaccinated.

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Q: Can I get my second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine if I had an allergic reaction to a previous dose?

A: No. Those who experience reactions that indicate or suggest allergies to the mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines or any of their components should not get their second jab.

This includes people who develop anaphylaxis after the first dose.

People who develop urticaria, also known as hives, or angioedema with onset of symptoms within seven days of getting vaccination are also likely to be allergic.

Others with either generalised maculopapular rashes, erythema multiforme or bullous lesions within seven days post-vaccination should also not get their second dose.

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Q: Which cancer patients can be vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine?

A: Those with cancer but not receiving chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunotherapy can be vaccinated.

This refers to patients who have not been on any treatment in the past three months and have no planned treatment in the next two months.

People on cancer hormonal therapy or have a history of cancer, and are in remission, can also be vaccinated.

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