SINGAPORE - Singapore is preparing to take its vaccination programme into high gear as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage around the world, with plans for new centres and roving teams that could potentially deliver more than 70,000 shots daily across the island.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) wants to appoint a vendor to set up 36 Covid-19 vaccination centres from February, according to tender documents seen by The Straits Times.
These centres should be able to cater to at least 2,000 people a day.
The vendor will also set up 10 mobile teams to provide mass vaccinations for sites such as nursing homes.
The centres and the teams will be set up progressively and the number required is subject to change.
Vaccination sites could include vacant schools, community clubs and sports halls. The assigned vaccination centres will operate for up to 12 months.
With the nation aiming to complete all vaccinations this year, appointed vendors will also have to make sure that vaccines are stored and handled properly, and that supply is sufficient.
This includes ensuring strict compliance with the cold chain management of the Covid-19 vaccines, which must be transported in a temperature-controlled environment every step of the way.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for one thing, has to be stored at minus 70 deg C. It is the only one approved here to date.
Vendors must also coordinate the delivery of vaccines to ensure that there are sufficient stocks, on top of making sure that there are enough emergency supplies and equipment on standby in case of adverse allergic reactions.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines can be kept at normal refrigeration temperature for just five days, once they have been taken out of frozen storage.
The mobile vaccination teams will comprise a medical doctor, four nurses and three administration staff, and will operate from 8am to 6pm daily. The doctor must be prepared to respond to medical emergencies.
The vaccination centres should operate from 8am to 10pm daily, and only the National Appointment System should be used for appointments and the updating of vaccination records.
MOH said in its tender that the appointed vendor will form part of its panel of Covid-19 vaccination resources, and that other vendors or in-house resources may be sought to administer vaccines where appropriate.
The new tender comes as vaccinations are well under way in Singapore, with thousands of shots given at healthcare institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes, among other locations.
They will also be given at polyclinics and general practitioner clinics, and Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said on Monday (Jan 18) that he had visited staff at Punggol Polyclinic, who walked him through the process of administering Covid-19 vaccinations.
Barring any unforeseen disruptions to shipments, MOH said it is making provisions for all Singaporeans and long-term residents to be able to get vaccinated by the third quarter of this year.
People will not be able to choose which vaccine they want, but will be able to know which vaccine they have received.
According to the latest update of the Infectious Diseases Act made by MOH, which came into effect on Tuesday (Jan 19), those who get vaccinated must be informed of the name of their vaccine's manufacturer, among other things.
More than 6,200 people here have received their first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, and this figure is expected to rise substantially in the coming weeks, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, said last week.
Some 37,000 front-line workers in the aviation and maritime sectors will be vaccinated within two months, starting from this week.
Two vaccination centres at Changi Airport Terminal 4 and Raffles City Convention Centre are already operational, while two more centres at the former Hong Kah Secondary School and Woodlands Galaxy Community Club will be ready to start operations this week.
MOH had said that more centres across the island are being planned and will be rolled out in tandem with the arrival of the vaccine shipments.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two injections, given 21 days apart. Singapore is expecting more vaccine deliveries in the next few months, including from American biotechnology firm Moderna and China's Sinovac.
The Sinovac vaccine has yet to be approved, while the Moderna vaccine, which has a similar efficacy rate as Pfizer's, is under review.
The tender closes on Thursday.
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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.