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‘Singapore airport jab centre can inoculate 4,000 a day’

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Front-line workers in the aviation industry registering for Covid-19 vaccination at Singapore’s Changi Airport Terminal 4 on Monday. THE STRAITS TIMES

‘Singapore airport jab centre can inoculate 4,000 a day’

When Raffles Medical Group received the call to set up a vaccination centre at Singapore’s Changi Airport Terminal 4, it took just five days to get the whole operation up and running.

Last week, more than 1,000 aviation workers were vaccinated there in a trial run of operations.

Full-scale vaccination of air crew and front-line workers started on January 18, and the centre will inoculate 7,000 people this week.

There is scope to ramp up capacity even further, said the centre’s lead physician, Dr Tan Joo Peng.

Dr Tan, 38, told reporters on January 18: “It was a combined effort between ourselves and our Changi Airport Group counterparts to set this up in fairly record time.

“We have 27 vaccination stations, so based on a conservative planning norm of 12 patients per hour and 14 hours of operations per day, I am fairly confident we can do 4,000 vaccinations, if not more.

“[We have] the ability to scale up further if the nation calls for it.”

The aim, Dr Tan said, is to keep the total time it takes for a person to get vaccinated to under an hour, including 30 minutes of observation time to ensure there are no adverse effects.

A medical fridge, which can store more than 10,000 doses, was specially brought in as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

Dr Tan said proper “storage of the vaccine is critical. We don’t want any wastage”.

Operations managers on the ground also look at the flow of people at the centre and prepare the appropriate number of jabs.

It takes 30 minutes to prepare the vaccine as it has to be got up to room temperature.

At any one time, there are 70 doctors, nurses and healthcare attendants at the centre to render treatment and attend to emergencies.

Dr Tan said: “We have EpiPens and adrenaline. All the resuscitation equipment is on hand.”

Fortunately, there have not been any adverse reactions to the vaccines so far, he said. Common complaints include aching near the injection site and minor headaches.

“For those with minor reactions, it is actually very safe. It is mainly those who have had anaphylaxis [a severe allergic reaction] that are a no-go,” Dr Tan said.

Anthony Low, a duty manager for ground-handling and in-flight catering firm Sats Ltd, got his jab last week with his wife, who is also in the aviation sector.

While the 52-year-old has a drug allergy, that did not stop him from volunteering to be vaccinated.

“I felt it would protect not only myself, but also the people around me,” said Low, who works in passenger services.

Singapore Airlines pilot Anwar Salim, 49, who was vaccinated on January 18, said: “It was quite a painless procedure.”

Sats president and CEO Alex Hungate, who also got vaccinated on January 18, said aviation workers have even more reason to step up and get vaccinated, given the pressure that the industry has been under due to Covid-19.

Of the 10,000 Sats staff here, 2,000 have already registered for the shots.

Hungate said Sats does not intend to make vaccinations compulsory.

He said: “It is up to individuals whether or not they want to take the vaccine. Our role is to make sure they have all the facts before they make the decision.”



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