Sunday, 20 Jun 2021

24 people get Covid-19 vaccination at home under ongoing pilot project

SINGAPORE – Mr K.S. Toh, 68, suffered a stroke four years ago that resulted in him having to rely on a wheelchair to move around.

Despite wanting to get vaccinated against Covid-19, he found it difficult to travel to the nearest vaccination centre by himself as he lives alone in a three-room flat in Yishun.

Mr Toh has since discovered through Touch Community Services that he can receive the vaccine at home. He is a client of its Touch Home Care service.

As part of the nationwide vaccination roll-out, the Ministry of Health (MOH) called for a tender on May 19 to provide Covid-19 vaccinations to people who are unable to leave their house, including seniors like Mr Toh.

Since May 10, a pilot project for home vaccination teams has been under way, with 24 individuals getting their Covid-19 vaccinations at home as at last Wednesday (May 26), MOH told The Straits Times.

Each home vaccination team consists of a doctor and a nurse who carry the necessary medical supplies and equipment.

Meanwhile, mobile vaccination teams comprising one doctor, four nurses and three administrators have been deployed islandwide to make vaccinations more accessible.

As at last Wednesday, 27,019 individuals have used this service.

Mobile vaccination teams have also been deployed at Bukit Panjang Community Club (CC), MacPherson CC and various community centres.

However, even travelling to the nearest CC may be difficult for seniors who are unable to leave their home, such as Ms Mary Teo, 74, who is diabetic, has Parkinson’s disease and is bedridden.

Her caregiver, foreign domestic worker Padua Mae Zate, 37, used to be able to move Ms Teo to a wheelchair and take her out to get some air.

But ever since Ms Zate underwent fibroid removal surgery, the combined weight of Ms Teo and her wheelchair is now too heavy for the helper to negotiate down the two steps to the corridor.

The Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), which is working with MOH to roll out the home vaccination teams, said it will be organising webinars to help home-care providers identify and encourage eligible clients to register for home vaccination.

NTUC Health said that to date, 60 of its home-care clients, aged between 50 and 80, have expressed interest in receiving vaccinations.

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NTUC Health then liaises with MOH to arrange an appointment for those who are interested.

Lions Befrienders chairman Anthony Tay said that for home vaccinations, its staff – who include registered nurses – have been assessing the health conditions of seniors eligible for the jab and registering those eligible with AIC.

Of the 7,600 seniors that Lions Befrienders serves, around 228 aged between 60 and 95 are receiving home personal care.

“Many seniors who have pre-existing conditions may self-exclude themselves from taking the vaccine because they think they are not eligible,” said Mr Tay.

Mr Julian Koo, chief executive of home and mobile health company Jaga-Me, which is participating in MOH’s tender, said some seniors may also not have the cognitive ability to relate their health conditions to a medical provider.

Other healthcare providers that The Straits Times spoke to, such as Doctor Anywhere, Speedoc and Sata CommHealth, said people who are unable to leave their home may also be immuno-compromised or have physical disabilities.

“This is an opportunity to go through with a fine-tooth comb, to help these patients who may have otherwise fallen through the cracks,” said Mr Koo.

As at the middle of this month, about 71 per cent of eligible senior citizens aged 60 and above had been vaccinated or had booked appointments for their shots.

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