Ren Ci nursing home staff among first eldercare workers to receive Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine

Ren Ci @ Bukit Batok Street 52 was the first nursing home in the community care sector whose staff received the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - The nation's vaccine rollout continued on Monday (Jan 11) with 50 staff from Ren Ci's Bukit Batok nursing home getting their shots.

Singapore had embarked on a nationwide vaccination effort against the coronavirus on Dec 30 last year, beginning with front-line workers at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.

Since then, staff from public and private healthcare institutions, and front-line officers from the Ministry of Home Affairs have been vaccinated.

On Monday, Ren Ci @ Bukit Batok Street 52 was the first nursing home in the community care sector whose staff received the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.

The vaccines were administered by a team from Ren Ci at the nursing home.

Staff had to fill out a form declaring their medical conditions before receiving the vaccine.
After receiving the shot, they were kept in a holding area for 30 minutes and observed for sudden negative side effects.

The other 110 or so staff at the Bukit Batok nursing home will be vaccinated in two batches over the next two weeks, as part of the home's business continuity plan.

Ms Elsie Teo, the assistant director of nursing at the home, was the first to receive the injection.

"After almost a year of dealing with Covid-19, I am glad that we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel with the development of the vaccine," said the 66-year-old.

Ms Teo, who has been in nursing for 40 years, shared that her family had initially been worried about her getting vaccinated.

After the shot, she said: "I feel well, no headache or giddiness... I told them I'm fine, (and they) should all go for it. With the vaccine, life can go back to normalcy."

She added that she is thankful the staff was prioritised.

"It gives me added assurance on top of existing safe management measures that I can continue to deliver safe care to the residents in the nursing home."

Seniors living in nursing homes have been considered particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.

When Covid-19 hit Singapore last year, visitors were banned from the homes after a cluster emerged at Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home in March last year.

At its peak, there were 14 residents infected, of whom four later died.

As a result, staff at nursing homes were required to be tested more frequently in order to reduce the chance of further spread.

On Monday, Ren Ci Hospital's chief executive officer Joe Hau, who received his shot after Ms Teo, said a townhall was held earlier to address any concerns the staff might have about the vaccination programme.

He added that 80 per cent of the staff across Ren Ci's two nursing homes and its community hospital, will receive the shots.

Of the rest, half could not be vaccinated as they have contraindications, such as potential severe allergic reactions, or are pregnant.

Mr Hau said staff who do not get vaccinated would not have their job scope changed, and will continue to practise strict infection prevention and control measures such as hand hygiene and donning masks.

Ren Ci staff in the other nursing home at Ang Mo Kio as well as its community hospital will receive the vaccination in the coming weeks.

"As care staff in the community care sector, we have a duty of care towards our elderly nursing home residents as well as day-care clients to keep them safe.

"Taking the vaccination will also help protect us as well as our loved ones at home," said Mr Hau.

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The vaccine rollout across the community care sector is being overseen by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC).

In response to queries from The Straits Times, AIC said another six nursing homes are due to have their staff vaccinated this week.

The agency added that nursing homes have the option of conducting vaccinations on-site using their own staff, tapping mobile vaccination teams, or sending their staff to polyclinics or other vaccination sites.

Aside from nursing homes, AIC said staff of other community care providers would also receive their vaccination shots in the coming weeks.

"We have garnered strong support from the community care sector. The providers will continue to engage their staff and we are working with them to progressively roll out vaccinations," added the agency.

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