How much do the elderly in Singapore know about pneumonia?
Last year, four final year undergraduates from the NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Lin Jia Ying, Li Zhi Ying, Tang Pei Ying and Lin Jin Ying, conducted a questionnaire survey on this topic involving 200 senior citizens aged 65 years and above.
The survey revealed that over half of the elderly persons surveyed did not comprehend the severity of the pneumonia disease. As a result of their shocking findings, the four young women conceived the campaign, “A Pneu Choice”, as their final year project.
During the campaign activity, which was conducted on 3rd March 2018 in partnership with Tzu Chi Singapore, the elderly were injected with a pneumococcal vaccine. The activity not only protected the elderly from contracting pneumonia, but also heightened their awareness and knowledge towards the dangers of pneumonia.
“A Pneu Choice” was officially launched on 2nd January 2018. Tzu Chi not only provided its free clinic premises at Redhill as the vaccination site, but also sent teams of members from its medical association, TIMA, to the Leng Kee Community Club as well as four NTUC SilverAce senior activity centres, to advocate the vaccination campaign and to encourage participation by the elderly.
Undergrad Lin Jin Ying said, “Many of the elderly mistaken pneumonia as tuberculosis, thus we often have to remind them that these two diseases are different and correct their perception. Through our explanations, they have gained a better understanding of the benefits of vaccination and also become more open to respond.”
She was full of admiration for the TIMA team after witnessing how the teams’ members were able to interact with the elderly efficiently and rapidly resolve any challenges that surfaced.
67-year-old Mdm Yu Wan Xian learned about the campaign activity during a free health talk. As her own mother had died of pneumonia, Mdm Yu still had strong feelings towards the dreaded disease, and agreed to be vaccinated without hesitation.
“Vaccination is very important, especially among the elderly who may have a lower immunity due to old age, and are thus susceptible to infection. This (free vaccination) is a very good form of welfare, because (in most clinics), a single injection will cost us around $150, which is really expensive,” shared Yu.
The four NTU students spared no efforts in their desire to serve the elderly. Besides designing the publicity brochures and seeking manpower support, they also had to look for a suitable venue as well as vaccine sponsors. While designing the brochures, they conscientiously sought the opinions of the elderly and took into account their preferences.
There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines available in the market, namely PCV13 and PPSV23. Thus the students specially designed magnetic stickers printed with these words: “I got vaccinated PCV13”, to let the elderly know which type of vaccine they had received.
Mdm Huang Xiu Mei who initially could not decide whether to proceed with the vaccination or not, felt touched when undergrad Lin Jia Ying was patiently explaining the benefits to her. The selfless service of the student left a deep impression in her. In actual fact, Mdm Huang did not quite fully understand the vaccination process; however, she felt relieved and happy after receiving her injection.
The four university students managed to raise enough sponsorship to provide vaccines for 300 elderly persons. A total of 78 elderly persons benefited from the vaccination on this day, while the remaining 222 doses of the vaccine were donated to Tzu Chi, to be administered free of charge to eligible senior citizens through the Tzu Chi Free Clinic.
“The spirit and philosophy of Tzu Chi is in line with the goals of our project. We hope to help more people by donating the remaining vaccines to Tzu Chi,” commented one of the students.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, pneumonia was the number three killer disease locally in 2016. A total of 3,863 residents died as a result of pneumonia, a toll second only to cancer and heart disease.
Pertaining to the significance of this campaign, Tang Pei Ying said, “As Singapore’s population ages, we need to transmit the message of pneumonia prevention to the elderly.”
In October last year, the Ministry of Health launched the National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS), which enables eligible citizens to pay for vaccination with Medisave.