SAF Assists Home Vaccination Efforts
// Story by Gabriel Lee
// Photos by Chai Sian Liang
Medics from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) have been putting their medical training to good use by assisting with home vaccination efforts targeted at the elderly and homebound individuals.
Home Vaccination Teams (HVTs) from 3rd Combat Support Hospital (3 CSH) – comprising Operationally Ready National Serviceman (NSman) medics, medical officers and support personnel – have been supporting the Ministry of Health's home vaccination efforts as part of their In-Camp Training (ICT) cycle.
Leading his battalion in the HVT operations is Major (MAJ) (NS) (Dr) Mohd Mizan Marican, Commanding Officer (designate) of 3 CSH. "The men of 3 CSH are excited to be part of this home vaccination drive as part of their ICT. This is a meaningful contribution by 3 CSH and we are helping to increase our national vaccination levels," said MAJ (NS) (Dr) Marican, who is an orthopaedic surgeon.
This is not the first time he is contributing to the fight against COVID-19. He was deployed to migrant worker dormitories to support testing efforts in 2020.
"This year, I took this HVT drive in my stride and regarded it as part of my National Service journey. As a medical battalion, it is only right that we step up to help."
To minimise wastage of vaccines, a call centre and an operations hub have been set up to coordinate the operations. The call centre makes sure that patients are aware of upcoming HVT visits, while the operations hub serves as the nerve centre and is in constant contact with the 20 roving HVTs.
The operations hub also keeps track of any adverse reactions after vaccination and the number of households which have been visited by the HVTs.
Realistic training conducted
Before the HVTs were deployed, the NSmen attended refresher training sessions designed to help them effectively administer the vaccines in a domestic setting.
Corporal (CPL) (NS) Chia Shengyou Edwin, who serves as a medic, said that the training was easy to follow. "Mistakes were promptly corrected, and the trainer gave practical tips from his experience."
CPL (NS) Chia, who is a lawyer by profession, also said the training gave him the confidence to administer the vaccines. He added: "It is heartening to know that I am able to contribute in my own way as part of the SAF to the national effort to vaccinate as many seniors as possible.
"Hopefully, with wider vaccination, we will be able to open up further, and thereafter live in the new normal."
Overcoming challenges as a team
One of the biggest challenges faced by the HVTs was the language barrier.
CPT (NS) (Dr) Shane Alexander Abucewicz Tan Yuan-Yu, a Medical Officer, only speaks English and Mandarin, and had some initial difficulty conversing with Malay-speaking residents.
Fortunately, he had a Malay speaker on his team, who helped to translate. Each HVT comprises a Medical Officer, a Medic and a Health Assistant to assist with the vaccination.
He added: "I was also aware that we were entering someone's house for the first time. We had to pay special attention to that, and be polite."
Like MAJ (NS) (Dr) Marican, this is not his first time contributing to COVID-19 efforts. He volunteered at the Community Care Facility at the Singapore Expo for six months in 2020.
"I looked after COVID-19 patients at Expo last year, and now I'm trying to close the loop with this home vaccination exercise," he said.