It was a momentous achievement when more than 80% of our staff received their COVID-19 vaccine in March. Nevertheless, the recent
cluster at Tan Tock Seng Hospital has shown that our fight against
COVID-19 is not over. Word-of-Mouth chats with NDCS Director, Professor Poon Choy Yoke, Deputy Director of Clinical and Regional Health, Professor Teoh Khim Hean and Chairperson of Infection Prevention Control (IPC), Dr Chelsia Sim as they share their experiences of battling the invisible, evolving enemy.
1. SingHealth's COVID-19 staff vaccination exercise started on 8 January 2021. Within 3 months, NDCS achieved a vaccination rate of more than 80%. What are your thoughts and how has the journey been so far?
Cl A/Prof Poon Choy Yoke: It has been a tough year. When COVID-19 first started, we presumed that it would be like the SARS outbreak, which eased off within two months. However, it turned out to be longer than expected and evolved into a pandemic.
The vaccine is the solution to this crisis and it was important that we encouraged as many staff as possible to take it. The collective effort of every able-bodied and healthy adult counts towards bringing the pandemic under control – we can protect our young children and those who are medically ineligible to receive the vaccine. As one NDCS family, a nation and one world, it takes collective effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Cl A/Prof Teoh Khim Hean: We anticipated that staff may be hesitant due to the new mRNA technology and the speed it took to develop the vaccine. Direct communication and engagement with staff was extremely important to understand their concerns and anxieties. This enabled more to opt-in for vaccination.
Dr Chelsia Sim: During that period, IPC worked to allay our colleagues' concerns by sharing timely and credible information from the Ministry of Health (MOH), SDOT and NDCS COVID-19 Taskforce. We hope to assist our colleagues in making informed decisions on the vaccine and address any doubts they might have.
2. The journey in the fight against the COVID-19 has been a long, arduous one. Any reflections or learnings you would like to share?
Cl A/Prof Poon Choy Yoke: It was important to explain to staff why they should receive the vaccine; debunk myths and falsehoods that were being circulated by disseminating the correct information and addressing concerns that staff may have, and making it easy for them to receive the vaccine through walk-ins at SGH Deck on 9.
Cl A/Prof Teoh Khim Hean: We should remain vigilant as the pandemic is ongoing and the virus is mutating to be deadlier and more contagious. Staff should continue to pay attention and adhere to existing IPC and public health measures both at work and home.
Dr Chelsia Sim: One of the key takeaways from this journey is about the process and dissemination of information to staff. It took a substantial amount of coordination to ensure that staff are updated on the safe management measures and guidelines established by MOH, SDOT and the NDCS COVID-19 Taskforce. IPC had to rely on our HODs and explore alternative modes of communication such as TigerConnect to remove bottlenecks, but we are glad everything worked out.
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