More than 6 in 10 eligible pupils in special education schools have signed up for Covid-19 jabs

A pupil at APSN Katong School receiving the Covid-19 vaccination on Jan 12, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Children at APSN Katong School getting to choose toys or colouring books to occupy themselves at the observation area on Jan 12, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Parents and children at the screening zone in APSN Katong School during the vaccination exercise on Jan 12, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - About 3,900 children aged six to 11 in special education (Sped) schools have been invited to take the Covid-19 vaccination.

Of these, more than six in 10 have signed up to do so, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Wednesday (Jan 12).

Vaccination for pupils in these schools began on Wednesday, with mobile vaccination teams from the Health Promotion Board (HPB) deployed to four Sped schools, including APSN Katong School, to give the children their shots.

The exercise will be progressively rolled out to all 20 Sped schools with eligible pupils, said MOE.

At APSN Katong School, nurse Nurhayati Rosli, 32, was among the parents accompanying their children to get vaccinated.

To prepare her elder daughter, Nur Izara Il’Aisyah, who has mild autism, for the jab, Madam Nurhayati showed the six-year-old YouTube videos of the vaccination process to give her an idea of what to expect and explained its link to Covid-19.

She said: “Initially, I was concerned about whether the nurses or the people who were going to do the vaccination were trained to be patient with children who are afraid of the shots.”

But learning that Izara could get vaccinated in school assured the mother, who said the familiar faces of teachers, psychologists, therapists and friends made it comfortable for her daughter.

Teacher Cymone Wong said staff have helped prepare the pupils for the vaccination through role play, and taught them words of self-affirmation.

Teachers and allied health practitioners are also on site during the vaccination process to spot any signs of anxiety in the children and take them to a room to calm them down, she said.

Deputy director of HPB's Student Health Centre Premila Hirubalan told The Straits Times that the healthcare workers deployed are experienced in giving shots to children in Sped schools. They had given vaccination jabs to the children during annual routine health screenings, as well as during the Covid-19 vaccination exercise for those aged 12 and above in the schools in June and July 2021.

The board has also put in place steps to help smoothen the vaccination process for pupils in Sped schools.

For instance, up to two caregivers are allowed to accompany the child from registration and screening to administration of vaccine and observation, said Dr Hirubalan.

She said: "For the vaccination exercise in Sped schools, the team prepared a student journey graphic guide and photos of our staff's uniform to be shared with the parent and child before vaccination, so that they can have a better idea of what and who to expect during vaccination."

The healthcare workers will also explain each step of the vaccination procedure to both the children and their parents in simple terms to ensure that the children are ready to receive the shots, Dr Hirubalan said.

She added: "We also give sufficient time for the child to relax before he or she is ready to be vaccinated. If the child needs time to calm down, he or she can take a rest at the designated 'cool down' area."

Together with school staff and parents, the team will try to cater to each child's unique needs, she said.

Ahead of the vaccination exercise, MOE and the Health Ministry organised two parent webinars on Dec 29 last year and Jan 6 to address questions from parents of pupils enrolled in these schools.

Said MOE: "Vaccination will help to protect our children against serious side-effects of Covid-19. We strongly encourage parents or guardians to get their child or ward vaccinated if they are medically eligible."

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