SINGAPORE: From Jan 27, the Government will begin to vaccinate seniors in the community against COVID-19, starting with pilots in Ang Mo Kio and Tanjong Pagar, where larger numbers of seniors reside, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Friday (Jan 22).
Vaccinations will be progressively rolled out to seniors across the island from mid-February, he added, in what he described as Singapore’s “largest” vaccination in its history.
Currently, seniors nursing homes have already begun to receive their vaccinations.
Selected seniors in the community will receive letters inviting them to make an appointment for their vaccinations.
Those in Ang Mo Kio and Tanjong Pagar will be able to make their appointments from Jan 25 onwards, said Mr Gan, who was speaking at a multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19 news conference.
The Government will invite between 5,000 to 10,000 seniors in each of the pilot areas for vaccinations to start, said the minister.
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VACCINATION CENTRES TO BE SET UP OVER NEXT FEW WEEKS
For the pilots in Ang Mo Kio and Tanjong Pagar, the Government will set up two vaccination centres at Teck Ghee Community Club and Tanjong Pagar Community Club by Feb 1.
"The vaccination centres will be set up over the next few weeks to ensure that all seniors can conveniently receive their vaccinations at a centre near to where they live, and vaccination centres will be located in high population catchment areas and along public transport routes for greater accessibility," the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a press release.
Community volunteers from the People’s Association and Silver Generation Ambassadors will conduct house visits and tap on existing grassroots events to answer queries and help seniors book appointments if necessary. Seniors in Ang Mo Kio and Tanjong Pagar can go to their respective community clubs to seek assistance as well.
Seniors will receive information sheets with more details on the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccination process, said MOH.
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STEADY PROGRESS IN VACCINATION PROGRAMME
Singapore has been making “steady progress” with its vaccination efforts, with more than 60,000 people receiving their first dose as of Friday afternoon, said Mr Gan.
This includes seniors in nursing homes and staff working in healthcare, nursing homes, frontline and essential services.
On Jan 20 alone, Singapore vaccinated close to 10,000 people.
“So far, all vaccination centres are up and running across Singapore and we are preparing to open more even as we speak,” he said.
Thirty-nine staff members from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) have also received their second dose of the vaccine and completed the full vaccination regime. They will build up “maximum protection” against COVID-19 in two weeks times, said MOH.
Mr Gan said that although there might be some delays to shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines due to Pfizer’s manufacturing plant upgrading, the Government will continue to monitor supplies closely to ensure that there will be enough vaccines for all Singaporeans and long-term residents in Singapore by the end of the year.
Responding to a question on the length of the delay, the minister said that the delayed shipment is scheduled to arrive in time for the vaccination programme.
"This is the first time that we are seeing (vaccine shipment) delays, as a result of the manufacturing plant being renovated upgraded. They will be other reasons for delays in time to come, said Mr Gan.
Although the Government has made efforts to shore up and diversify its vaccine supply and schedule vaccinations based on shipment arrivals, Mr Gan urged Singaporeans to make "early" appointments when their turn to be vaccinated came.
"Please do make an appointment early, because there will always be a possibility of a disruption as we go along."
Said Mr Gan: “While we have made steady progress on the vaccination front, we must remember that the journey is far from over. Vaccination is about one of a whole suite of measures that must work hand-in-hand to keep transmissions low.”
POSSIBLE ADVERSE EVENTS FROM VACCINATION
On whether the Government has received any records of vaccine recipients developing side effects, MOH’s director of medical services Assoc Prof Kenneth Mak said that it has received some reports.
The Government is currently collating and compiling the reports and submitting them to the expert panel for review and recommendations, he added.
"In general, the majority of adverse events in the various countries that have launched vaccination programmes ... are very mild," he said.
The adverse events tend to be "local reactions", including pain, redness, swelling and soreness of muscles at the site of injection. Some have reported fatigue, generalised muscle aches and fever, Assoc Prof Mak said.
"Many of these symptoms in fact reflect the body's immune system responding to the vaccine dose that has been injected in them, and there will be some that may have more serious side effects, which include allergic reactions of a variety of different grades of severity," he added.
He noted that the Government has a process for tracking adverse events as they arise, which "goes through" institutions that perform vaccinations, as well as doctors, the Health Sciences Authority and MOH.