Protection At Home – Home vaccinations keep COVID-19 at bay

Protection At Home – Home vaccinations keep COVID-19 at bay

16 Jul 2021
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While COVID-19 vaccinations are under way nationwide, some families had trouble helping their homebound loved ones get access to the life-saving vaccines.

After Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement that such families can request for home vaccination services, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) has been working with care providers to send home vaccination teams to the doorsteps of households around Singapore.

In June, we visited the household of an elderly couple in Yishun, Madam Wong Lian In and Mr Tan Cher Kiang, who had applied for the home vaccination service with the help of AIC’s Silver Generation Office.

Mr Tan, 74, who is bedbound, was first vaccinated on 28 May 2021 by a Health Promotion Board team. His caregiver wife received her two doses earlier this year at the vaccination centre near their home. For his second jab, Mr Tan was cared for by a Home Vaccination Team from Edgedale Medical Clinic, who spent that same day visiting a few families in the estate.


 

After picking up the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine from a designated vaccination centre, Dr Joan Tay and administrative staff Mabel Ong review the list of clients they will visit on June 18, 2021. The Home Vaccination Team for today’s operations comprise staff from Edgedale Medical Clinic, which runs three General Practitioner clinics. The Edgedale team was activated to provide home vaccine services on 15 June and each team visits about eight homes a day.

Edgedale’s Dr Yan Shiyuan, with nurse Joshua Seah, carrying their precious cargo in a luggage, as they make their way to the home of Madam Wong Lian In and Mr Tan Cher Kiang in Yishun. Because demand for home vaccination has increased, Edgedale has roped in more full-time doctors to lead more teams. On this morning, the team is running a few minutes behind schedule. Heavy rain slowed down their journey between the houses.

Dr Tay greets Mr Tan, 74, and his wife Madam Wong. Mr Tan is bedbound due to a motor neuron disease, and also has cardiomyopathy and respiratory conditions. Despite his current condition, Mr Tan is alert and likes to watch YouTube videos on a tablet that his wife helps prop up on his hospital bed.

The team check Mr Tan’s vitals before the vaccination to make sure he is fit for his second dose, looking out for fever or infections, and other factors that may make the person unsuitable for the vaccination.

Mr Tan got the all-clear for his second jab. Nurse Joshua Seah does quick work and the injection is done in minutes. The vaccination team has found that most homebound patients are fairly calm when receiving their dose because they are in the comfort of their own home. Patients with dementia or special needs will receive the medication in parts of the home where they are most comfortable, and their caregivers will be prepped in advance to support the medical team and keep their loved ones at ease.

Mr Tan confidently gives two thumbs up when asked how he feels after his jab. The team waits another 30 minutes in the house to observe the Pioneer Generation senior for any side effects from this second dose. The signs they look out for include breathlessness, swelling, rashes, pain or vomiting.

Most patients do not show reactions, but the team is well equipped to manage any medical emergencies after the vaccination.

The home vaccination team move on to their next location. As of the start of July, the Edgedale clinic teams have served over a hundred people, and plan to include special needs children who cannot leave their homes for vaccination, or who cannot be vaccinated in school. As Singapore gears up to meet the target of half of all residents to be fully vaccinated by August, teams like Edgedale will keep on providing this vital care to those in need.


About Mr Tan and Madam Wong

In July 2020, Mr Tan collapsed while working at the noodle stall Madam Wong ran in a primary school. After a six-month hospital stay, he was finally able to go home in early 2021. His wife is his main caregiver, while her brother-in-law drops in often to look after Mr Tan while she works.

Madam Wong recalls that her husband had poor appetite during his hospital stay as he was confined to tube feeding, says Madam Wong. It was a great relief after he was discharged and able to eat orally again. “He was so hungry, he asked for second helpings,” she says.

Mr Tan was first vaccinated on 28 May 2021 by a Health Promotion Board team, after AIC’s Silver Generation Office (SGO) helped the couple apply for this home vaccination service.

The SGO team keep in touch with Madam Wong every month to make sure she is well supported during the pandemic, and were responsible for helping the couple apply for this vaccination service when it was rolled out in May.

It was during one of their routine calls that they learnt that Madam Wong had received her vaccination at a nearby centre, but not her husband. The home vaccination service was arranged for them very quickly after that call.

The couple, who do not have children, get support for Mr Tan’s care needs with home medical service. They are also receiving financial help from the Home Caregiving Grant, Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme, Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund, as well as food rations from the Chong Pang grassroots organisation.

Madam Wong says she received caregiver training before her husband returned home. “That training taught me how to take care of him, and how to keep his tubes and equipment clean. In his current condition, he can’t really move about the house on his own anymore.”

Currently, with the pandemic still going on amid the nationwide vaccine efforts, Madam Wong and her husband are just taking things one day at a time. “It can’t be helped, now that he’s fallen sick. I just have to focus on keeping him well.”

If you or someone you know needs home vaccination services, please contact the Silver Generation Office at 1800-650-6060.