SINGAPORE: More than 2,000 seniors have been successfully referred for their first dose of COVID-19 vaccination through a programme by the Health Promotion Board (HPB).
More than 1,740 of them have since completed their vaccination, a HPB spokesperson told CNA on Friday (Oct 29).
Under the programme, those who refer unvaccinated seniors aged 60 and above for their COVID-19 jabs will receive a S$30 e-voucher.
In response to queries on the uptake of the programme, the spokesperson said that the voucher is given to the referrer once HPB is able to verify that the senior has been fully vaccinated.
The Let’s Get Our Seniors Vaccinated programme was launched on Aug 13 and will run until Nov 30, according to the HealthHub website.
A total of 1,514 e-vouchers have been issued as of Oct 28, HPB said. Most of the seniors were referred by their immediate family members, while others were referred by relatives, friends and neighbours, the spokesperson added.
The vouchers can be used at businesses that are participating in HPB's rewards programme, including FairPrice, Cathay cinemas, Sakae Sushi and LiHo Tea.
The spokesperson added that the take-up has been “very positive and encouraging”.
“We hope that through this programme and with care and support from referrers, we can encourage more seniors to go for vaccination so they can better protect themselves and take care of their health,” she said.
VOUCHER IS TO “COVER COSTS”
In a written reply to a parliamentary question in September on whether the voucher discriminates against those who had persuaded their senior parents to get vaccinated earlier, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the S$30 voucher is given to each referrer to cover the costs involved in supporting seniors throughout the vaccination process, such as accompanying seniors to the vaccination centre.
“This is a token amount that acknowledges the additional effort needed to encourage seniors who may be vaccine-hesitant and require deeper engagement to address their concerns,” MOH said.
During the initial stages of its vaccination programme, many seniors came forward to get vaccinated, it noted.
“However, as we attained higher vaccination rates, seniors who remain unvaccinated would require further persuasion and assurance,” the ministry said.
Infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital Leong Hoe Nam said that such initiatives help.
“Any measure, anything that gets, even if I can get one person more vaccinated, it will help the hospitals,” he said.
He said that a vaccinated older person is more likely to recover than someone who is of similar age and unvaccinated, and stressed that getting vaccinated will spare intensive care resources.
According to the latest figures on seniors’ vaccination given by Second Minister for Health Masagos Zulkifli on Oct 25, 87 per cent of seniors above the age of 70 have been vaccinated.
THE NEED FOR VACCINATION
The Government has repeatedly emphasised the need for seniors to be vaccinated, as they face higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19.
MOH director of medical services Associate Professor Kenneth Mak said at a press conference last Saturday that older people have a higher risk of needing intensive care or dying as a result of their age and chronic medical conditions.
The risk for unvaccinated seniors needing intensive care or dying above the age of 80 was 21.7 per cent, compared to 3 per cent in the vaccinated group, he said.
The risk of unvaccinated seniors above the age of 80 needing oxygen supplementation was 52.7 per cent, compared to 13 per cent in the vaccinated group, added Assoc Prof Mak.
Younger seniors aged 60 to 69 similarly face higher risks, he said. Those who are not vaccinated have a 27.8 per cent risk of needing intensive care or dying, while this risk is 2.1 per cent in the vaccinated group.
MOH also said that unvaccinated seniors, who make up about 1.5 per cent of the total population, account for two-thirds of COVID-19 deaths and intensive care unit (ICU) cases.
As of Wednesday, 84 per cent of the population completed two doses of COVID-19 vaccines and 85 per cent received at least one dose, according to MOH's latest numbers.
The Government is also encouraging seniors to take booster shots – eligible seniors aged 60 and above can walk into vaccination centres for these shots without an appointment.
As of Saturday, 79 per cent of eligible seniors have either booked an appointment or already received their booster dose.