Staff administering Covid-19 jabs reminded not to leave mid-task, to avoid repeating SNEC error

In the incident during a staff vaccination exercise at SNEC, an employee was given undiluted Covid-19 vaccine.
In the incident during a staff vaccination exercise at SNEC, an employee was given undiluted Covid-19 vaccine.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Health Ministry has instructed vaccination providers to adhere strictly to medical protocols, to ensure staff administering Covid-19 jabs do not repeat the mistake last month which saw a Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) staffer receive the equivalent of five doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday (Feb 24), Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said staff administering the vaccine are not allowed to leave their positions before they complete their immediate task.

Should there be a need to step away, there must be proper documentation and reassigning of roles and duties to other staff members, added Dr Janil, who is also Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information.

He was replying to questions by Ms Ng Ling Ling (Ang Mo Kio GRC), Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang) and Workers' Party MP Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC).

They had asked about steps being taken to avoid a repeat of the Jan 14 incident, which happened about a week after Singapore officially kicked off its national vaccination drive.

In the incident during a staff vaccination exercise at SNEC, an employee was given undiluted Covid-19 vaccine.

It happened after the worker in charge of diluting the vaccine was called away to attend to other matters, and a second worker mistook the undiluted dose in the vial to be ready for administering.

The employee who was given the shot was admitted to hospital for observation but did not suffer any adverse side effects.

Dr Janil assured the House that each staff member in the national vaccination process is assigned a manageable workload. They also have clearly defined roles across specific stations within the vaccination sites - for registration, screening, vaccination, and monitoring.

He added that Covid-19 vaccination providers have been instructed to adhere strictly to the medical protocols that have been put in place. These protocols are to ensure the safety of vaccinated individuals and provide guidance on the management of the vaccination.

He said they include clear, written instructions on the preparation and administration of the vaccine, and spell out the need for a designated and segregated area for the preparation and administration of the vaccines as well as clear labelling to differentiate diluted and undiluted vaccine vials.

Dr Janil said that all vaccination providers must receive training to familiarise themselves with the guidelines, protocols and operational workflow before they begin their vaccination operations.

He added that the Health Ministry also conducts periodic audits at all vaccination sites to ensure that safety standards are adhered to.

Singapore's vaccination drive is currently taking place at 14 vaccination centres, 20 polyclinics and 22 Public Health Preparedness Clinics. There will eventually be 40 vaccination centres.

Following the Jan 14 incident, the SNEC staff vaccination exercise was continued at Singapore General Hospital. SNEC is not involved in a vaccination exercise outside of its own staff.

In an incident in Australia, two elderly people in a Brisbane nursing home were mistakenly given higher doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine by a doctor who had not completed the compulsory vaccination training.

The doctor has since been stood down from the vaccine programme, which was recently rolled out.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told the Australian Parliament that both patients are being monitored.

"Both patients are showing no signs at all of an adverse reaction. But it is a reminder of the importance of the safeguards," added Mr Hunt.