Ong Ye Kung: Mobile vaccination for seniors 'quite effective'

Mobile vaccination teams have reached out to about 3,240 individuals since July 7.

Zi Shan Kow | July 31, 2021, 12:34 PM

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The number of unvaccinated seniors in Singapore have decreased from 200,000 to slightly below 180,000, according to Minister of Health Ong Ye Kung.

Speaking at the mobile vaccination team at Whampoa Precinct Hall on July 31, Ong added that a lot more work still needs to be done despite the increase in the number of elderly who have been vaccinated.

"Our top priority now is to get as many of our seniors above 60 vaccinated as soon as possible. As we open up our economy, our social activities, we think that they are the most vulnerable," said Ong.

Mobile vaccination efforts have been ongoing for three weeks now, and has been "quite effective", he said.

Ong added that this is one major prong of the Ministry of Health's (MOH) efforts to vaccinate seniors.

"We are making progress", he said.

"This has also worked because of the grassroots efforts, volunteers visiting them in their households and bringing them down."

Grassroots approach

The grassroots efforts include addressing concerns of seniors and providing assistance to the elderly.

At the precinct hall, a staff member addresses the seniors who are waiting in their seats for their observation period to be over.

Using a microphone and speaker, the staff member explains the fine print of the vaccination pamphlet in both Mandarin and dialect to the seniors.

MOH: Reaching out to doctors and TCM practitioners

Speaking to some of the seniors at the mobile vaccination team, Ong said he found that it was not easy to persuade the elderly to take the vaccine, but they were much more likely to listen to the doctor's advice.

"It is quite effective when the doctors speak to them," said Ong.

Another effort by MOH is to once again reach out to all general practitioners and TCM practitioners, "to request for their help and reach out to their clients".

Ong said he hopes that practitioners can bring forward their regular appointments with unvaccinated seniors, see them earlier and persuade them to get vaccinated.

Elderly couple go for vaccination

He Ting, who is 84 years old, accompanied her husband to take his first dose.

Both of them have chronic health problems, and rely on each other on a daily basis.

"We are both old, we live day by day," He shared.

Although she didn't plan to, He ended up joining her husband in taking the first dose.

She shared that the doctor listened to her concerns and explained that it was safe for her to take the vaccine.

She also decided to delay her second dose until the school holidays, when her daughter, who is an educator, is able to look after her, just in case.

"If my husband has any symptoms I can take care of him, but he won't be able to take care of me," said He.

Due to their mobility issues, other seniors at Whampoa also found that the mobile vaccination team was much more convenient for them being located closer to their homes and reducing walking time to only about a few minutes.

Photo by Kow Zi Shan.

Mobile vaccination teams

Mobile vaccination teams are deployed at locations near where many seniors live, such as at selected community clubs and centres that are not already used as vaccination centres, or at the residents’ committee centres at residential blocks.

The team at Whampoa is run by Fullerton Health, which has three mobile teams in total.

These mobile vaccination teams deliver up to 200 doses of the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine every day, as opposed to vaccination centres that have the capacity to provide 2,000 doses a day.

Ho Whei Chern, the Fullerton group head of communications, said the mobile vaccination teams remove two main barriers for seniors.

One of which is the challenge of travelling to a vaccination centre, and the other is the need for online digital registration.

According to Ho, not only has this effort been helpful for seniors, but it has also managed to reach out to community groups such as domestic workers and caregivers who find it difficult to find time to get vaccinated.

Photo by Kow Zi Shan.

Vaccine hesitancy among seniors

According to Fullerton Health's group CEO Ho Kuen Loon, the main concerns of seniors lie with their existing chronic problems and addressing vaccine side effects.

In many cases, seniors who come down to the team are "not fully convinced", but the "consultation with doctors make a difference".

Vaccination in Singapore

According to MOH, there is continuing evidence that vaccination helps to prevent serious disease when one gets infected.

As of July 29, Singapore has administered approximately 7,429,918 doses of Covid-19 vaccines under the national vaccination programme, covering slightly over 4,290,278 individuals.

Top images by Kow Zi Shan

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