Behind The Scenes At Sunway Medical Centre’s Covid-19 Vaccination Site

So far, Sunway Medical Centre has managed to avoid wasting Covid-19 vaccines by ensuring the cold chain is not broken.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 — The Covid-19 vaccination drive at Sunway Medical Centre in Petaling Jaya is showing promising signs of increasing capacity to help meet the overwhelming demand for vaccines in Selangor.

The state government’s mass testing campaign has put Selangor on top in terms of daily new Covid-19 cases reported in recent months. In the past 14 days, Selangor recorded nearly 1,900 daily new infections on average.

Sunway Medical Centre first began inoculating medical frontliners in the state on March 10 at about 246 doses administered per day. On May 31, the coronavirus vaccination site at the private hospital was opened to the public under the government’s National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK).

Sunway Medical Centre has been distributing more than 400 shots daily to residents in the Petaling district since early this month. Covid-19 vaccination at the private facility is free since Sunway Medical Centre is one of the vaccination sites (PPV) under PICK.

Speaking to CodeBlue, Sherry Woo, director of allied health and lead of the vaccination working committee at Sunway Medical Centre, said the private hospital is looking to raise its vaccination capacity further in the near term as its rollout programme gathers pace.

“At the current rate, we can inoculate about 50 to 60 people per hour. We started a bit slow on the first day (May 31) with about 356 shots administered, but we’ve since managed to build our momentum and reach 465 jabs on June 2, our best record to date,” Woo told CodeBlue in an interview earlier this month.

“We saw a lot of vaccinees requiring wheelchair assistance on our first day, so the movement was slower. Today, as you can see, those who are coming in are more independent so this speeds up the overall vaccination process at the centre,” she said.

The vaccination programme at Sunway Medical Centre runs parallel to the second phase of PICK, which prioritises senior citizens aged 60 and over, alongside high-risk groups with chronic diseases and people with disabilities.

The centre has personnel at hand to help people check in, make sure they have the correct appointment and fill out a medical questionnaire before directing them to one of three Covid-19 vaccine counters for their shots.

Upon receiving their jabs, vaccinees will move down to a waiting area where they will be observed for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on their medical history, in case of serious reactions. Vaccinees take about an hour on average to complete all steps from start to finish.

The vaccine that Sunway Medical Centre currently uses is Sinovac’s CoronaVac, which can be stored at standard fridge temperatures of two to eight degrees Celsius.

Another advantage of the Sinovac vaccine, which was recently approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, is it contains one dose per vial that ensures each dose remains sealed. To compare, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine contains six doses in each vial.

Sunway Medical Centre administered the Pfizer shot to medical frontliners under the first phase of the public Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Special Training For Nurses

A health workers prepares Covid-19 vaccine dose at Sunway Medical Centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Photo provided by Sunway Medical Centre on June 2, 2021.

The centre has nine state registered nurses assigned to vaccinate people at any given time. Woo said the nurses were all specially trained and supervised by the Petaling health district office matron on ways to properly administer the Covid-19 vaccines.

“The matron would come everyday for at least a month to help them learn proper Covid-19 vaccine protocols and provide best practices to maximise vaccine volume by ensuring there are no spills or mix-ups. It’s important not to waste,” Woo said.

The Pfizer vaccine comes with its own low dead-volume syringe and needle, which helps to minimise waste by eliminating the gap between the plunger and needle to give it a sixth dose.

Woo said while the handling of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine is simpler compared to Pfizer’s, the Sinovac vaccine is tougher to draw from its vial as the solution is a bit viscous. “It’s also a bit tougher to inject given the viscosity of the substance, but with training, there is no issue.”

Avoiding Vaccine Wastage

Covid-19 vaccination at Sunway Medical Centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Photo provided by Sunway Medical Centre on June 2, 2021.

Like other private hospitals registered under ProtectHealth Corporation, a wholly-owned company under the Ministry of Health, Sunway Medical Centre’s vaccine procurement is subject to procedures set out by the ministry as the facility’s vaccination drive uses shots provided by the government.

Sunway Medical Centre pharmacist Choong Moon Ting said the centre will place new orders for Covid-19 vaccines every week. Each order must be made a week in advance backed by a list of vaccine recipients obtained from the Malaysia Vaccine Administration System (MyVAS).

Once approved, their orders will be collected at the Puchong Batu 14 health clinic. The clinic gets their Covid-19 vaccine supply from Selayang Hospital, which is one of six Covid-19 vaccine storage centres in Selangor.

Sunway Medical Centre personnel will collect the doses twice a week, which equates to 2,000 doses weekly. Choong said the vaccines will be transported from the clinic to Sunway Medical Centre in a cold box of two to eight degrees Celsius. It will then be catalogued upon arrival.

An average of 400 doses of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine will be dispensed daily from the centre’s storage facility. “If there is a shortage, we will grab more vials. For example, on June 2, when we administered more shots, we added about 40 more doses,” Choong said.

“If there is a balance for the day, we will put it back in storage, all the while making sure that each vial does not break the cold chain process,” he said, adding that the first few days of the rollout at Sunway Medical Centre saw an average balance of about 10 to 20 doses due to a high dropout rate.

Choong said the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine can last for six months from its manufacturing date if the cold chain is not broken. “If it does, it will go to waste, and every waste is accounted for, so we will try and avoid that. So far, that has not happened,” he said.

According to ProtectHealth’s website, private hospitals receive payment from ProtectHealth at RM14 per dose administered.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Sunway Medical Centre, which was appointed as a Pusat Pemberian Vaksin Hospital Swasta (PPVHS), officially started to vaccinate the public with the Covid-19 vaccine from 31 May 2021. Picture provided by Sunway Medical Centre.

Damansara Jaya resident Wai Sam Thai, 76, said she was pleased to get her first Covid-19 jab swiftly just a month after she registered for the vaccine.

“I was assisted by a medical officer in Kelana Jaya, who asked if I had registered for the Covid-19 vaccine. I was there for a medical check-up. I said no and he helped sign me up,” she told CodeBlue

“I would call up my nephew and ask him to check my status on MySejahtera, to see if I have been called up,” said Wai, who lives on her own. Wai was accompanied by her nephew for the Covid-19 jab at Sunway Medical Centre.

For Wan Foong Kheng, 74, her decision to take the Covid-19 vaccine was due to the support and encouragement she received from her family. The Petaling Jaya resident said it took her less than an hour to complete the vaccination process, including 15 minutes of observation.

Wan is expected to take her second dose on June 26, saying: “I think it is a good thing. I feel more confident and more reassured about being in public after taking the vaccine.”

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