SINGAPORE: The Government is targeting to have one community vaccination centre in every town by the end of March, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Jan 26).
Speaking to journalists on a visit to Tanjong Pagar Community Centre, one of the first pilot community vaccination centres to open for COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday, Mr Chan said: "Our aim is that by the end of March, we will have one community vaccination centre in each town. We are able to scale that up and down depending on demand.
"But one of the things about this national community vaccination exercise is that people are able to make their booking and they can go to any particular centre that is open so long as they have slots that are available to them. So we are going to make it easy to access for as many people as possible.
“And if we need to scale it up faster because if the vaccines come in faster, we will make sure that we have the vaccination capacity. Our aim is to build the vaccination capacity ahead of the arrival of the vaccines, so that the vaccination capacity (at the centres) will not (hit a) bottleneck.”
The Ministry of Health (MOH) sent out a first batch of about 10,000 letters to senior citizens in Tanjong Pagar and Ang Mo Kio on Monday, inviting them to make an appointment for their vaccinations, he added.
Since bookings opened on Monday, the vaccination centre at Tanjong Pagar CC has received about 300 vaccination bookings for its first day on Wednesday, said Mr Chan.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced on Jan 22 that the Government will begin to vaccinate seniors in the community against COVID-19, starting with pilots in these two towns where large numbers of seniors reside.
READ: COVID-19: Seniors in Ang Mo Kio, Tanjong Pagar to get vaccinated from Jan 27; national roll-out for elderly begins mid-February
Vaccinations will be progressively rolled out to seniors across the island from mid-February, and selected seniors will receive the letters inviting them to make an appointment for their vaccinations.
Each community vaccination centre can dole out about 2,000 vaccinations per day, from 8am to 10pm, said Mr Chan. These community vaccination centres also have measures in place catering to the elderly, he added.
For example, there is an express lane for elderly who may be less mobile and come in wheelchairs, so they do not have to wait. The size of the vaccination booths are also slightly bigger to accommodate wheelchairs.
Chairs with backs and armrests are also provided in the waiting areas, for “greater stability” for the elderly, said Mr Chan.
COMMUNITY BOOKING CENTRE TO HELP ELDERLY
There will also be a community booking centre at each community vaccination centre at the CCs, where elderly who may not be able to make their vaccination appointments online can come to make their appointments in person, he added.
Volunteers from the People’s Association will be present, and they can help to advise the seniors and check whether they are eligible to take the vaccine, said Mr Chan.
The volunteers have also been mobilised to go on house visits to elderly residents, he added. After a few days, if the elderly residents have not responded by registering for the vaccination after receiving the letters, volunteers will check in on the elderly to see whether they need help in understanding the vaccination process or booking the appointment.
Small group sessions in the Residents’ Committees centres and void decks of about 20 to 30 people will organised, as some of the elderly may have questions regarding their eligibility for the vaccine, said Mr Chan.
“Now this is very important because if we can answer the elderly’s questions upfront earlier, then it is more reassuring for them to make the appointment. And then you will also reduce the time that's required by the time they turn up for the appointment,” he added.
“Because we don't want to waste the vaccine, so we want to make sure that people who make the appointments on a certain day at a particular place are able to get the vaccination done. We will push forward vaccines based on the demand for that particular day.”
READ: COVID-19 vaccination begins for land transport sector with jabs to be offered to 80,000 workers
Seniors who would like to get vaccinated can also walk in to get vaccinated.
“If there's a last minute walk-in, then we will have to help the person make the appointment, go through the pre-vaccination checks as well, then where possible we will provide the vaccination for that person on that day itself,” said Mr Chan.
The roll-out of vaccines to seniors at the community vaccine centres is “a much more intensive exercise” than the roll-out of the Pioneer generation or Merdeka generation packages to seniors, he added. The volunteers have also been undergoing training on how to help seniors with their questions.
“In this particular case, you need to have a bit of medical knowledge, and you need to also be able to answer questions unique to the individuals. For example, some of the seniors might be concerned that I'm taking the following medication, will I be eligible or should I take the vaccination? So these are questions that the medical personnel will have to advise on.
“But what the community volunteers can do is to at least help to triage the first layer, which is those questions that can be answered, we try to allay the concerns of the seniors, when we reach out first. Then the more serious medical related questions, we will have medical doctors on hand to provide them with the information.”
MOH also has a mobile vaccination team for seniors who are not mobile and cannot leave their homes, said Mr Chan. Volunteers will try to make an appointment with the mobile vaccination team to bring the vaccination to these residents.
Vice chairman of Spottiswoode Park RC Radhakrishnan Menon is one volunteer who has been going door-to-door to speak to senior residents about the vaccination. The 79-year-old will also be receiving his first dose of the vaccination on Wednesday.
“Most of them are agreeable to it, but some, especially the Chinese residents, are waiting for Chinese New Year to be over,” he said, adding that he is expecting more residents to come forward for the vaccination after the festive season.
“(When we visit the residents) we tell them it’s for their benefit, and protection for them and also those around them.”