SINGAPORE - In an effort to increase the Covid-19 vaccination rate among seniors aged 60 and above, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has called on general practitioners to persuade their patients to get the jabs.
"We know that for many seniors, in fact, for many of us, we listen to our GPs. They are our confidants, they are our friends, they have been giving us advice since we were young. And so the GPs are a big source of influence amongst the seniors," he said on Tuesday (July 20).
He was responding to a question raised at a press conference held by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 on how the Ministry of Health (MOH) will be convincing more seniors to get their jabs.
Singapore has about 200,000 seniors aged 60 and above who have yet to be vaccinated. Mr Ong said this group of people have a high likelihood of falling critically ill if they are infected.
On July 14, letters were sent to GPs and primary care providers for use in persuading seniors above 70 to get themselves vaccinated against Covid-19. These letters were signed off by Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak.
Mr Ong added that for some time now, seniors aged above 60 have been able to walk into any vaccination centre and get their Covid-19 jabs on the spot, without needing a booking.
"Many have responded to that... (showing) that it has been a very effective measure," he said.
Volunteers from the Agency for Integrated Care, the Silver Generation Office and the People's Association have been visiting many households with seniors, asking them if they have been vaccinated and persuading them to do so.
"So they've been working very hard, but I think there's a limit to how much they can persuade," Mr Ong added.
MOH has also deployed vaccination teams to the homes of seniors with mobility issues, and there are 10 mobile vaccination teams to inoculate seniors in towns with the most number of unvaccinated seniors, said Mr Ong.
There are 10 of these towns, including Bukit Merah, Sengkang, Tampines and Yishun.
He said certain countries, such as Britain, have been more confident in opening up their economies due to the high vaccination rates among seniors, with some countries achieving rates of 90 per cent to 95 per cent.
Mr Ong said that in Singapore, the vaccination rate among those aged 70 and above is hovering at around 71 per cent to 72 per cent, and is expected to reach 75 per cent in the coming days based on the bookings done.
"But in the coming weeks, if we can reach out to even more, maybe we can reach 80 per cent to 85 per cent," he said.
The vaccination rate among those aged between 60 and 69 is above 85 per cent, he noted.
Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force, said in response to a question that additional precautions may apply to the 200,000 seniors aged 60 and above if efforts to convince them to get vaccinated fail to bear fruit.
For example, they will not be able to participate in some activities deemed to be of higher risk, he noted.