Polyclinics, GP clinics to administer Covid-19 vaccine

A total of 80 Home Team officers involved in front-line healthcare operations were the first in the Ministry of Home Affairs to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations yesterday, at the Singapore Civil Defence Force Headquarters.
A total of 80 Home Team officers involved in front-line healthcare operations were the first in the Ministry of Home Affairs to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations yesterday, at the Singapore Civil Defence Force Headquarters.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Covid-19 vaccination centres that allow a large number of people to be vaccinated daily will be ready soon, and shots will also be given at polyclinics and general practitioner clinics, said the Ministry of Health's chief health scientist, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan.

There will also be roving teams which vaccinate certain groups, such as those in nursing homes.

Prof Tan was speaking after taking his vaccine shot yesterday.

Allowing people to get vaccinated at polyclinics, public health preparedness clinics and GP clinics will make the experience more convenient and comfortable for Singaporeans, especially for the elderly, who may be more familiar with these places, he said.

Prof Tan was among close to 120 healthcare workers across the National University Health System who received their Covid-19 vaccinations yesterday.

The first to take the jab at the National University Hospital was Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, who chairs the expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination.

Prof Ong, who took a flu jab a few weeks ago, described the vaccine injection as a relatively painless procedure. He advised Singaporeans to get their flu and Covid-19 jabs a couple of weeks apart as this will allow the immune system to respond appropriately to each vaccine.

On those who have already been vaccinated, Prof Ong said: "Some of the individuals in the first batch are on my expert committee... I managed to chat with the very first woman who received the vaccine... and they are all fine. I hope that is reassuring for other people who are getting vaccinated."

Vaccinations kicked off elsewhere yesterday as part of Singapore's nationwide drive, which began on Dec 30 last year.

A total of 80 Home Team officers involved in front-line healthcare operations were the first in the Ministry of Home Affairs to receive their jabs. A total of 1,050 officers will be progressively vaccinated in the coming weeks, the ministry said in a statement yesterday.

Some 50 staff from Ren Ci's Bukit Batok nursing home were also among the first eldercare workers to get vaccinated.

Prof Tan said Singapore has sufficient vaccine doses so there is no need for it to stretch out a dose the way some countries are doing.

When asked about possible side effects that might be felt weeks or months after the jab, he said Singaporeans will be able to report these symptoms to vaccination centres, medical practitioners and the Health Sciences Authority.

The data will be collated centrally so that the authorities can look at the side-effect profile that is emerging from the local population.

Urging people not to avoid getting the second dose if they experience minor side effects such as pain and fever after the first, Prof Tan stressed: "The system will be there to remind people to turn up to get a second dose. It is very important for everyone to understand that full protection only takes place if you have two doses, and not just one."

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine - the only one approved here to date - requires two injections, given 21 days apart.

Prof Tan also stressed the importance of education and information sharing as well as addressing some of the concerns that people may have. "And so we have a very active outreach programme to address these different issues."

Currently, the data from the Pfizer vaccine has shown that protection can last for about three months. But Prof Tan expects immunity to last longer than that as more becomes known.

"We think that it's not going to be a very short-lived immunity; it would likely be in the order of a year, two years," he said.

The authorities also plan to run a couple of clinical trials, which will be conducted on a voluntary basis.

Participants can enrol in these forthcoming studies, which will look at the nature of the immune response to vaccination. The trials will not try to re-examine efficacy again, Prof Tan noted.

There have also been concerns over how some people administering the vaccinations here are not wearing gloves. According to the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no need to wear gloves but the procedure requires them to have cleaned their hands with an alcohol-based waterless antiseptic hand rub, or to have washed them with soap and water before giving the jab. If gloves are worn, they should be changed between patients.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2021, with the headline 'Polyclinics, GP clinics to administer Covid-19 vaccine'. Print Edition | Subscribe