Covid-19: Singapore aims to set up one community vaccination centre in each housing estate by end-March

A view of the newly set up vaccination centre at Tanjong Pagar Community Club in Singapore January 26, 2021. — TODAY pic
A view of the newly set up vaccination centre at Tanjong Pagar Community Club in Singapore January 26, 2021. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Jan 27 — The People’s Association (PA), which is working with the Singapore Ministry of Health to roll out the nation’s community Covid-19 vaccination programme, is aiming to set up one community vaccination centre in each town by end-March.

The first of such vaccination centres will open at Tanjong Pagar Community Club (CC) today, and it is set to vaccinate almost 300 seniors, who have booked a slot to get the shot on its first day of operations.

Singapore Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who is also PA’s deputy chairman, gave these details yesterday as he inspected the vaccination centre at Tanjong Pagar CC, which was erected in its multi-purpose hall.

Each vaccination centre can facilitate up to 2,000 vaccinations a day.

Chan said that the initial response of 300 sign-ups had been “really quite encouraging” considering that it had only been about two days since letters of invitations were sent out to the seniors.

It is, however, still too early to assess the take-up rate for the jabs, although it is known that some 5,000 seniors are among the first batch of residents whom the Singapore government had invited to be vaccinated, he said.

Singapore Health Minister Gan Kim Yong first announced last Friday that seniors at two housing estates, Tanjong Pagar and Ang Mo Kio, will be the first to get invited for the voluntary vaccination exercise.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 seniors aged 70 and above in each of the two estates are expected to take part in this pilot but that will depend on the response.

The vaccination centre at Ang Mo Kio, to be located in Teck Ghee CC, is not open yet and is slated to be operational by February 1. 

While the centres will cater to the older population for now, Chan said that people will eventually be able to make their bookings at any community vaccination centre, “so long as they have slots that are available to them”.

“We are going to make it easy to access for as many people as possible,” he added.

“Our aim is to build the vaccination capacity ahead of the arrival of the vaccines, so that the capacity will not be the constraint or the bottleneck. 

“So once the vaccines come in, we will try as soon as possible to send out letters of invite for more to get vaccinated.”

Singapore Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (second from right) speaking to a nurse who will be administering vaccines to seniors at Tanjong Pagar Community Club. — TODAY pic
Singapore Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (second from right) speaking to a nurse who will be administering vaccines to seniors at Tanjong Pagar Community Club. — TODAY pic

What the process is like at the centres

Community vaccination centres in the heartlands that are catered for elders will feature express lanes for not-so-mobile individuals and slightly larger booths for those on wheelchairs, Chan said.

The rest of the processes do not deviate from those adopted by other vaccination centres such as the one at Changi Airport Terminal 4, which began vaccinating air crew and frontline workers earlier, he added.

The older residents will first receive an invitation letter instructing them to book an appointment online.

When they show up at the vaccination centre at the allotted time, personnel there will confirm their particulars and run through a health questionnaire with them before administering the jab.

The injection will take about five minutes. After that, they will have to wait at an observation area for 30 minutes before they can leave by proceeding to the discharge counters with their vaccination card.

The whole process is estimated to take about 45 minutes.

While the seniors are expected to make a booking beforehand, Chan said that last-minute walk-ins are allowed. Staff members will be on hand to help the elders make an appointment, run through the necessary pre-vaccination checks and, where possible, provide them with vaccination on the day itself.

There might not be enough vaccines available at the centre for those who simply walk in, since workers at the backend would not carry too many vials of vaccine. The vaccines cannot be frozen again once thawed for administration.

“The backend will have to adjust the logistics to make sure that any one station has sufficient vaccines for that day for the number of people required, but yet not too much so that we don’t waste the vaccines,” he said.

On whether he is anticipating queues at the vaccination centre, Chan said: “At this point in time, I don’t think that that is the predominant scenario.”

He added: “If there are people who, by word of mouth, go to the CC to ask about the vaccination process, we will obviously help them just as how we have helped them for the distribution of masks, TraceTogether tokens, hand sanitisers and so forth.”

This pilot at the two estates is meant to run through some of the processes and give the authorities a sense of the take-up rate.

It will “allow us to finetune the number of stations at every vaccination centre that we need, because it is quite scalable”, he said.

The one at Tanjong Pagar now has 12 vaccination booths.

Outreach efforts

To reach out to the population, PA is facilitating MOH in this by mobilising volunteers to go on house visits or organising information sessions on the vaccination at places such as the Residents’ Committees (RCs) or the void deck of a public housing block, Chan said.

Volunteers doing house visits in Tanjong Pagar to inform senior residents on the national voluntary vaccination programme and to encourage them to get inoculated. — TODAY pic
Volunteers doing house visits in Tanjong Pagar to inform senior residents on the national voluntary vaccination programme and to encourage them to get inoculated. — TODAY pic

One of the volunteers who had gone on house visits is retiree Radahakrishnan Menon, the vice-chairman of the Spottiswoode Park RC.

The 79-year-old, who was vaccinated on Wednesday, will be ushering seniors arriving at the centre.

He told reporters that most of the seniors he spoke to agreed to getting vaccinated, but there were some Chinese elders who wanted to wait until the Chinese New Year is over before they would commit to the jabs.

They were still cautious and wary of the side effects, he said. Others were waiting for a better vaccine to come out, or were doubtful and wished to wait until others have done it first.

“I think (the adoption rate) will go up (after Chinese New Year) because they want to have a good time during (the festive period). With the vaccination, they don’t want to get sick or anything like that,” he said. — TODAY

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