Singapore

Nursing homes prepare for vaccination of residents

They start identifying those suitable for jab; seniors who are not in nursing homes are not in a hurry

Mr Gerard Ee, chairman of the Charity Council and the Agency for Integrated Care, hopes to be one of the "front runners" among seniors to receive the Covid-19 vaccine - to inspire confidence in it among his friends who may be worried about its safety.

"I'm very confident that our people have done a very thorough job before approving the vaccine... and we have a reliable healthcare system," the 71-year-old said.

"And (getting vaccinated) is not only to protect myself, but my family too."

Nursing homes here have started identifying elderly residents suitable for Covid-19 vaccination.

St John's Home for Elderly Persons and Methodist Welfare Services (MWS) Nursing Home - Yew Tee, for example, have identified those suitable and are in the process of getting consent from the seniors or their next of kin for the shots.

At MWS Nursing Home - Yew Tee, about three in four of its 185 residents have been medically cleared for vaccination, its spokesman said.

Last week, the Government said seniors aged 70 and above would be vaccinated earlier, starting from the end of this month, instead of next month.

Many seniors - who are not in nursing homes - interviewed by The Straits Times expressed a wait-and-see attitude towards getting vaccinated, citing worries about the safety and potential side effects of the vaccine.

Madam Sitaravamma Sandrasegaren, 68, a senior dance instructor, is among those who are hesitant.

She said: "I do not have to be out of my home for long hours, and Singapore has a low rate of infection at present, so I feel safe."

Like others interviewed, she said her concerns about the vaccine intensified after news that more than 30 seniors in Norway died after being vaccinated.

Social service agencies that work with the elderly say the receptivity of elderly Singaporeans to the vaccine varies.

Many, though, have questions about the safety, efficacy and necessity of the vaccine.

Dr Kelvin Phua, chief executive of Sata CommHealth, said it has put up common FAQs on its social media platforms to dispel misconceptions or answer questions that seniors may have.

Experts say visiting the elderly, especially those living alone, is one effective way to educate them about the vaccine.

Sembawang GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak said many of his residents are concerned about the vaccine as it does not have a long track record.

SIDE EFFECTS

Dr Lim, an ophthalmologist, said: "I hope more reports on local data on side effects of the vaccination can be (made) available and released to the public so more can be assured of its safety."

Mr Ee said there are all sorts of contradictory information on the vaccine circulating on social media. But he chooses to place his trust in the medical professionals in Singapore to assess its safety.

"The greatest fear is fear itself. Throughout history, there are often a lot of negativities surrounding a (new) inoculation at first."

coronavirus