SAF's 20 home vaccination teams handled nearly 480 appointments in 3 days

SINGAPORE – Three operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) formed a protective ring around 93-year-old Madam Lai as one of them, Corporal (NS) Edwin Chia, gave her the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in her home.

First Sergeant (NS) Razali Ishak, 39, held her hand, while Captain (NS) (Dr) Shane Alexander Abucewicz-Tan, had a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“Almost done, almost done,” they said reassuringly as Cpl Chia, 35, administered the shot in her arm.

He remained alert throughout, in case Madam Lai jerked from the needle prick as she cannot hear well.

The three NSmen formed one of 20 home vaccination teams activated by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) between Tuesday (Sept 14) and Thursday last week.

Made up of medical officers and combat medics from the 3rd Combat Support Hospital (3 CSH) on in-camp training, the 20 teams attended to nearly 480 home vaccination appointments over the three days, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

In another home, retiree Katherine Tan, 78, said: “I didn’t expect the SAF to come and vaccinate my husband. I expected people wearing plainclothes, or nurses.”

Major (NS) (Dr) Mizan Marican, Commanding Officer of 3 CSH, said: “The Government is putting all their resources to increase the percentage of the vaccinated population.”

The SAF’s involvement started on Aug 30 with four teams. Last week, there were 20 teams comprising all NSmen.

Maj (Dr) Mizan added: “To increase the speed of vaccination, we have been asked to contribute to the home vaccination efforts.”

MOH had 33 teams in total early this month, including the four teams from the SAF. It had 49 teams last week, including the 20 from SAF, “effectively (reducing) the waiting times… to less than four weeks”, said MOH.

The ministry will continue to advise the SAF if its assistance is still needed.

MOH is aiming to complete all new home vaccination appointments by the end of this month.

Some of the home vaccination teams are now giving booster shots.

Dr Yan Shi Yuan, director of home care provider Edgedale Medical Clinic, said some of his teams started giving booster shots to nursing home residents from last week.

MOH said: “The home vaccination teams will administer booster shots to immobile clients who are immunocompromised, or not previously housebound.

“As long as there is a demand from the public, MOH will continue to work with the Agency for Integrated Care to provide home vaccination services.”

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Over the past week, the 20 SAF teams worked with 3 CSH support staff based at Nee Soon Camp. The support staff helped to call patients and monitor the teams’ progress throughout the day, and deal with any contingencies.

Before they were deployed last Tuesday, the teams underwent training and refresher courses the day before. Using mannequins, the combat medics were trained in procedures such as injecting, inserting cannulas and performing emergency resuscitation.

A cannula is a plastic tube inserted into the vein for medication or fluids.

First Sergeant (NS) Razali Ishak and Corporal (NS) Edwin Chia practising intravenous cannulation on a mannequin arm on Sept 13, 2021. PHOTO: MINDEF

A lawyer by profession but a combat medic during national service, Cpl Chia said the training and previous in-camp trainings prepared him well.

“At the start, I was feeling slightly apprehensive… With vaccinating the elderly, I had to apply a bit more pressure to get the needle through the skin,” he said.

The other two men have a little more experience dealing with Covid-19. As a paramedic with Hope Ambulance Service, 1st Sgt Razali has transported patients to community care facilities.

(From left) Cpl Chia, 1st Sgt Razali and Captain (NS) (Dr) Shane Alexander Abucewicz-Tan arriving at a flat for a home vaccination appointment on Sept 15, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

When Capt (Dr) Abucewicz-Tan’s clinic, The Aesthetic Loft Clinic, closed during the circuit breaker last year, he helped to set up and run a community care facility at the Expo.

Even after his clinic reopened, he continued to work night shifts at the care facility until October last year.

He has also volunteered at a vaccination centre in Sengkang Community Club every Sunday for the past six months.

Following last week’s in-camp training, the doctor is considering joining a home vaccination team to continue his service.

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