There will be one community vaccination centre in each of the 24 HDB towns by end-March, as the nation ramps up its Covid-19 vaccination drive, with the elderly starting to get their jabs from today.
The centres will ensure that when more vaccines arrive, they can be quickly distributed to the population, explained Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday 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 one of the first two such facilities set up to cater to residents aged 70 and above, in the latest phase of the nationwide vaccination drive which kicked off on Dec 30 last year.
While front-liners such as medical staff and aviation and maritime sector workers have begun receiving their jabs, the vaccination drive for the wider community gets under way today, starting with the elderly who have been deemed a high-risk group.
"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 that 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, said the take-up rate for vaccinations at Tanjong Pagar CC has been encouraging, with some 300 bookings made by elderly residents in the first two days.
"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," he said.
The authorities have stressed that it would be better for residents to get vaccinated as soon as they are offered the chance, even though the vaccination is not compulsory.
Mr Chan said that CCs were chosen as the vaccination centres as they give the elderly a sense of familiarity. Previous initiatives, such as the distribution of face masks and TraceTogether tokens, were also carried out there.
Each community vaccination centre will be able to give 2,000 vaccinations a day, from 8am to 10pm. But that can be adjusted based on the number of booths.
Mr Chan added that to avoid wasting vaccines, supply is brought in based on appointments made at a particular venue on a certain day. Hundreds of volunteers have been mobilised to reach out to the elderly and allay their concerns. Medical doctors are also on hand to answer any questions they may have on medical issues.
"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," said Mr Chan.
Mr Radahakrishnan Menon, assistant chairman of Tanjong Pagar CC's Senior Citizens' Executive Committee, who has been among the volunteers reaching out to elderly residents about the vaccination, said most are agreeable to it.
However, some are waiting until after Chinese New Year before taking the jab, as they do not want to risk falling sick from any side effects over the festive period.