Covid-19 jab appointments at some centres double on first day of accelerated vaccine programme

Singapore – When he heard more vaccination slots would be made available, Mr Wren Chee, 21, immediately moved his vaccination appointment forward by about two weeks.

Mr Chee, who is waiting to enrol into Nanyang Technological University, got his first dose on Saturday (June 26), which was originally scheduled for July 12.

The national vaccination programme has been accelerated from Saturday and will see up to 80,000 vaccine doses given daily, up from about 47,000 per day previously.

And one healthcare provider, which runs three vaccination centres, said it has seen the number of appointments doubled.

As part of Singapore’s plans to accelerate its national vaccination programme, another 500,000 new first dose appointments are expected to be added from Thursday (June 24) till mid-July, with more slots in the following weeks.

A multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 said on Thursday (June 24) the ramp-up in vaccines was made possible due to the delivery of vaccine supplies being brought forward.

This allowed Singapore to set a new target of having two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated by National Day, on Aug 9.

Mr Chee, who felt relieved when he clinched Saturday’s slot, said: “I’ll be interacting with more people as I’m signing up for driving lessons in July and will start school in August. So, I felt (the earlier vaccination dates) will work much better for me.”

Healthcare providers who operate the vaccination centres told The Straits Times they are well prepared to cope with the increased load, such as by tapping on additional manpower.

There are currently 37 vaccination centres islandwide.

Chief executive officer of specialist centres at Thomson Medical, Chan Wei Ling, said following the Ministry of Health’s call for those with later vaccination dates to bring forward their appointments, the number of appointments filled across all three Thomson Medical vaccination centres doubled.

Thomson Medical runs three vaccination centres at Potong Pasir, Bishan, and Senja-Cashew community clubs (CCs) .

Ms Chan said each centre was managing about 1,000 appointments a day, but this has now doubled and the centres are running at full capacity.

She said: “We have deployed an additional eight to 10 staff at each centre to manage the surge in appointments. They will supplement a variety of roles ranging from screeners to ushers and nurses.”

A spokesman from Fullerton Health, which runs 10 vaccination centres including at Jalan Besar, Geylang Serai, and Buona Vista CCs, said it is looking at increasing the number of vaccination slots by up to 50 per cent daily from Saturday.

Raffles Medical Group, which runs 15 vaccination centres, including at Tanjong Pagar and Marine Parade CCs, said each centre can support up to 2,000 vaccinations a day and has a network of doctors, nurses, and healthcare staff to tap into.

When ST visited Potong Pasir CC on Saturday, there was a steady stream of people coming to get vaccinated despite the downpour.

Mr Jackson Siah, 31, who was there for his first dose, said he made his appointment as soon as he was able to two weeks ago.

Mr Siah, who runs a hotel with his family, said: “The economy has taken a huge hit since the pandemic. So, with more people getting vaccinated, we can achieve herd immunity and things may slowly go back to normal.”

Ms Audinatasha Mahmud, 22, who was at Potong Pasir CC for her first dose, said: “It makes more sense to utilise what the government is doing for us, rather than doing nothing and complaining that the situation isn’t getting any better.”

Mr Yam Kum Yin, 53, who works as a care staff, accompanied his mother, 88, to the CC for her first dose.

Mr Yam, who is fully vaccinated, said: “We actually wanted to get her vaccinated much earlier but she couldn’t go alone due to her mobility issues. So, we had to wait till I was available to accompany her.”

When ST visited Taman Jurong CC, there were few people in the morning but the crowd grew from noon.

Infectious diseases experts urged those who can get vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.

Dr Asok Kurup, who chairs the Academy of Medicine’s Chapter of Infectious Disease Physicians, said he was glad the vaccination programme has been accelerated, which he felt should have been done earlier.

He said: “We may not have a perfect world, but if we have more people vaccinated, we stand a better chance of living with the virus.”

Another expert, Dr Leong Hoe Nam, said: “The more people that are vaccinated, the lesser the need for hospital care, which means the virus will just be like a common cold.”

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