SINGAPORE - Vaccination rates have been going up among seniors who are aged 60 and above, though more work still needs to be done, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Saturday (July 31).
Speaking at a mobile vaccination centre which was set up at 22A Whampoa Precinct Hall on Saturday, Mr Ong said that the mobile vaccination teams have been up and running for three weeks so far, and have been effective in ramping up vaccination rates among seniors.
The number of unvaccinated seniors from this age group has fallen to 177,000, said Mr Ong on Saturday.
During a press conference on July 20, the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 had said that the figure was 200,000, with a bigger push in the coming weeks to get these seniors inoculated.
Since July 7, mobile vaccination teams alone have reached out to about 3,240 individuals, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in an update on Saturday.
These teams go to selected community clubs and centres that are not already being used as vaccination centres, as well as residents' committee centres at residential blocks, in towns including Bukit Merah, Sengkang, Tampines and Yishun.
Mr Ong noted that the vaccination drive has largely been working due to these grassroots efforts, and volunteers who have been visiting elderly households and bringing them down for their jabs.
"So that's one prong of our efforts for now, all hands on deck with the mobile vaccination teams, going door to door and bringing them down (for vaccinations)," he said.
The other major effort by MOH is to reach out to all doctors to persuade seniors to get their jabs - a move which has also been quite effective, noted Mr Ong.
Over the weekend, or by Monday, MOH will be reaching out to all general practitioners and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners to get their help in persuading their patients to get vaccinated, he added.
"It's imperative for us if we want to contemplate opening up our economy... we must reach out to the seniors as they are the most vulnerable... to get as many of them vaccinated as possible," said Mr Ong.
On Wednesday, Mr Ong said in a Facebook post that about 77 per cent of seniors aged 60 and above have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, with 187,000 seniors yet to receive their first dose.
The mobile vaccination team, which is run by Fullerton Health, will remain for three days at the site and return in a couple of weeks for residents to get their second jab.
Fullerton Health's group chief executive Ho Kuen Loon told reporters on Saturday that three of its mobile teams have been going around the island. Each team has a capacity to deliver some 200 shots a day.
The teams have covered neighbourhoods in Whampoa and Kallang in the past two weeks, he added.
"(At the mobile vaccination centres), we are able to spend more time to address the residents' concerns, who are mostly elderly," he said.
Their concerns include having existing chronic disease and being on medication, making them unsuitable for vaccination. Some are worried about the possible side effects of the vaccine.
Mr Ho noted that many of the residents who turn up have the intention to get their jabs, but are a little hesitant and need some convincing.
Many are also accompanied by caregivers, who are seniors themselves and had not planned on getting jabbed as they are worried that no one will be able to take care of their family members should they suffer from any side effects.
This was the case for Madam Ho Ping, 84, who had initially planned to accompany her husband for his first jab, but ended up receiving hers too.
She said in Mandarin: "My husband has many illnesses, so I'm worried that if I get jabbed too and experience side effects, I won't be able to look after him if he is unwell."
After receiving assurance from the doctors that side effects from the jab are usually mild, she agreed to receive the vaccine together with him.
Madam Ho also scheduled her second jab to be after her husband's jab, so that she could look after him if he were to experience any side effects.
Another resident, Mr Teo Pek Leong, 72, brought his wife, Madam Lee Lye Choon, 70, for her jab, as the mobile vaccination centre is now more conveniently located for them.
Mr Teo said that he had not found the time to bring her previously, as Madam Lee is a wheelchair user and needs kidney dialysis weekly.
He said: "I often am very tired after I bring her (for kidney dialysis) so it's good that this centre is close by."