SINGAPORE - Each of the 24 towns here will have one community vaccination centre by end-March capable of delivering 2,000 vaccinations a day, as the nation ramps up its Covid-19 vaccination drive.
This will ensure that when more vaccines arrive, they can be quickly distributed to the population, in particular the elderly, explained Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Jan 26) during a visit to the community vaccination centre at Tanjong Pagar Community Club (CC).
The venue, along with Teck Ghee CC in Ang Mo Kio, is part of the first two such facilities that have been set up to cater to residents aged 70 and older, in the first phase of the nationwide vaccination drive.
The facilities differ slightly from existing vaccination centres to better cater to the elderly, with features such as bigger booths to accommodate wheelchairs and chairs with armrests.
"Our aim is that by the end of March, we will have one community vaccination centre in each town... and if we need to scale it up faster because the vaccines come in faster, we will make sure we have the vaccination capacity," said Mr Chan, who is also a Tanjong Pagar GRC MP.
"Our aim is to build the vaccination capacity ahead of the arrival of the vaccines, so that the vaccination capacity will not be the constraint or the bottleneck."
Once the additional vaccines arrive, letters will be sent out so people can book their slots at any of the centres that are open.
Mr Chan, who is also deputy chairman of the People's Association (PA), said the take-up rate for the vaccination has been "quite encouraging" at Tanjong Pagar CC, with some 300 bookings made by elderly residents in the first two days.
He expects more people to step forward for their jabs as they get more information on the vaccination drive and the effects and safety of the vaccines.
"As people become more confident of the process, I think the take-up rate will progressively go up... so we have to keep monitoring this and then make fine adjustments to the capacity at the respective vaccination centres," he said.
Mr Chan said that CCs were chosen as vaccination centres, as they give the elderly a sense of familiarity, with previous initiatives such as the distribution of face masks and TraceTogether tokens also carried out there.
He will be receiving his own vaccination shot on Wednesday morning at Tanjong Pagar CC.
Each community vaccination centre will be able to administer 2,000 vaccinations per day, from 8am to 10pm. But that can be adjusted based on the number of booths set up.
Operations at other vaccination facilities, such as at Changi Airport Terminal 4, showed it takes about five minutes per jab, and planning for the community vaccination centres was done on that basis.
The PA has mobilised over 600 volunteers for the vaccination operations at Tanjong Pagar CC and Teck Ghee CC.
Mr Chan said that the process of rolling out the vaccine is not as straightforward as that when launching initiatives such as the Pioneer Generation and Merdeka Generation packages because of the medical aspect.
"We try to allay the concerns of the seniors whom (volunteers) reach out to first. For the more serious medical-related questions, we will have medical doctors on hand to provide them with the information," he said.
"This is very important because if we can answer the elderly's questions upfront earlier, then it is actually more reassuring for them to make the appointment."
Mr Chan added that they do not want to waste any vaccines, so supply is brought in based on appointments made at a particular venue on a certain day.
Raffles Medical Group lead physician Tan Joo Peng, 38, said the shelf life of the vaccines is five days when kept at two to eight deg C.
The usual side effect they look out for in the first 30 minutes after a person has been jabbed is soreness of their arms. If they develop rashes, headaches or dizziness, then they will be taken to a nursing station to be treated.
Mr Radahakrishnan Menon, who is assistant chairman of Tanjong Pagar CC's Senior Citizens' Executive Committee, is one of the volunteers reaching out to elderly residents about the vaccinations. Most are agreeable to it, he said.
However, some are waiting until after Chinese New Year before taking the jab, as they do not want to risk falling sick over the festive period from any side effects.