50 Parkway Pantai staff get Covid-19 vaccine

The Covid-19 vaccination drive kicked off in the private healthcare sector yesterday, with 50 staff from the Parkway Pantai group receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

The shots were administered at two locations. Thirty doctors and nurses were given the jab at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital. Another 20 got the vaccine at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Orchard.

Among those inoculated at the Novena hospital were Parkway Pantai’s senior executives and some of the hospital’s infectious disease physicians, who said they hoped to lead by example.

The move would reassure their colleagues who may be hesitant about getting the vaccine, which uses messenger RNA technology.

Dr Prem Kumar Nair, chief executive for the Singapore Operations Division at Parkway Pantai, told the media as he received the shot in his left arm: “I echo what PM Lee said yesterday – it’s painless, it’s efficacious and it’s important.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had taken the Covid-19 vaccine on Friday morning, at the start of a nationwide drive to protect staff across various public healthcare institutions.

Dr Prem, who thanked the Ministry of Health for extending vaccinations beyond public hospitals, said the group aims to inoculate as many of its staff, temporary workers and vendors as possible over the next few weeks.

The healthcare group hopes to achieve a vaccination rate of 90 per cent among its front-line workers, who number more than 8,000. About 70 per cent of them have so far indicated their interest in receiving the vaccine.

Covid-19 vaccinations are voluntary in Singapore.

Said Dr Prem: “We thought that we would start off today by having the leadership of Parkway Pantai have their vaccines. And this includes some of our key infectious disease physicians as well.”

He added that there will be a few among the staff who may be worried about taking the vaccine due to concerns over side effects, and this fear is something the leadership wants to dispel by taking the lead and also through outreach sessions like townhall meetings.

Other than Dr Prem, 60, Dr Noel Yeo, 40, Parkway Pantai’s chief operating officer for Singapore operations, and Dr Peter Chow, 46, chief executive of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, were also vaccinated.

Mount Elizabeth Novena CEO Peter Chow receives a Covid-19 vaccination on Jan 9, 2021. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The group’s infectious disease specialists – Dr Leong Hoe Nam, 50, and Dr Asok Kurup, 53 – also received the shot.

Dr Asok said while media reports have highlighted instances of people experiencing severe allergic reactions, these were very rare.

The United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention last Wednesday released a report which found that only about 11.1 such reactions had occurred per million doses administered.

“So we are looking at a very rare occurrence. But even if such instances should happen, there are measures in place to treat them,” he added.

Ms Chua Hui Ling, principal pharmacist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, demonstrates how the vaccine is transferred from the cold storage to an insulated bag with ice packs. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

For instance, those who received the vaccine were monitored for at least 30 minutes on site. Crash carts and monitors were kept nearby, and accident and emergency doctors were asked to be on standby.

Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital nurse educator Nursyahidah Abdul Rahim, 35, was one of the front-line workers who received the vaccine yesterday.

“We do our social distancing, we have learnt about personal hygiene but just one piece was missing. And now it’s finally complete.

“This vaccine is something that we’ve been waiting for.”

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