SENIORS living in registered old folks homes in Klang Valley are finally getting their long-awaited Covid-19 jabs, thanks to government efforts to ramp up the national immunisation programme.
However, the same is not true of their counterparts in unregistered homes.
Those who run such homes are not keen to get in touch with the authorities to vaccinate all their residents and workers, as they do not have valid documentation and fear fines or closure.
Section 6 Petaling Jaya RT chairman Rajesh Mansukhlal said many of the unregistered homes have deleted their online profile for fear they would be identified by the authorities.
“They do not want to approach the authorities to vaccinate residents under their care because they fear their operations would be closed down.
“They just ask residents to register themselves for vaccination or get their next of kin to do so. Many seniors are unregistered because there is no holistic approach to this.
“A care home in my neighbourhood had 20 senior residents who tested positive for the virus. This made seniors like me who also live in the same neighbourhood fearful,” he pointed out.
Rajesh emphasised that not all unregistered homes were bad; some simply could not fulfil the strict requirements set by the authorities to operate a care home legally.
However, he hopes the authorities will come up with a plan to vaccinate residents in all care homes, registered or otherwise.
He said the authorities should work with local leaders to identify these homes and come to an arrangement to vaccinate everyone regardless of their status.
“The homes have even removed the signage from their premises because they don’t want to be identified.
“They are also afraid their workers without the relevant documents will be nabbed by the authorities.
“However, this virus kills and we have to do all that we can to save lives,” Rajesh added.
An operator of a registered senior care home, who did not want to be named, said it was true that many unregistered homes shied away from registering for the group vaccination programme.
“I don’t blame them because it is hard for them to meet some of the strict requirements and also due to staffing issues,” he explained.
Association for Residential Aged Care Operators of Malaysia president Delren Terrence Douglas said the government must encourage unlicensed aged care homes to come forward and register their residents as well as staff for vaccination.
“There is a lot of red tape involved to get a licence for these care homes. However, in this current situation, we have to think of the greater good and provide the vaccination first,” he stressed.
Delren said there were around 1,200 such unregistered homes in the country.
“I estimate that the Klang Valley has one-third of the total senior care homes in the country, of which only over 100 are licensed and meet all the requirements set by the authorities,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran said more than 10 care homes have enquired about the mobile vaccination unit through his office.
“Since the government announced the setting up of mobile vaccination units earlier this month, many senior care homes and shelter homes have wanted to know how to obtain this service.
“It is crucial to get to them fast as many have mobility issues due to disability and old age, making it difficult for them to head to the vaccine centres,” he added.
While most of the seniors in registered care homes are happy to be vaccinated, some refuse due to fear of side effects, false information spread among their peers and refusal by next of kin to sign the Covid-19 declaration form.
Michelle Yee, operator of Wan Hing Care Centre in Seri Kembangan, Selangor, said 32 residents and 15 workers in the home for seniors were vaccinated last week and were doing fine with only minor side effects such as fever.
However, there were about five elderly people from the home who refused to be vaccinated due to unfounded fears.
“We were well prepared with their documentation but at the last minute, they refused to be vaccinated. One client told us that if we tried to persuade her any further, she would call for a taxi and leave the home.
“Some seniors are known for their tantrums and we can only advise and share with them the importance of being vaccinated.
“The family members had agreed to have their parents vaccinated but we still respect the individual’s choice.
“They believe everything they see on social media and the information they receive from their peers, regardless of its authenticity, when they should look at the matter objectively based on statistics and studies,” Yee said.
She added that some of the seniors had rejected the vaccine because it was not their preferred choice.
“A few turned down the vaccination because they wanted only a particular vaccine.
“When they found out that they were going to be given a vaccine not of their choice, they backed off.
But the majority know the Covid-19 vaccines are good as they have been used worldwide,” she said.
Long wait over
Golden Roots Eldercare Centre co-operator Pradeep Balaram said after a long wait, endless enquiries and an online meeting with National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin, many senior citizens received their appointment to be vaccinated at their aged care homes.
“We were scheduled to be vaccinated on June 21. We have 19 senior residents and four did not want to be vaccinated. “These seniors were mostly stroke survivors and their next of kin did not want them to be jabbed.
“The authorities will also provide vaccination to our workers just so everyone feels safe,” he told StarMetro.
Woodrose Senior Residence operator Wan Salbiah Mior Yahya said she was glad that the staff and residents at the home would finally be receiving the vaccination after waiting for many months.
This was because the home shelters high-risk residents, such as those who have brain damage as well as seniors.
“I had to approach so many people to secure this vaccine. I am glad the authorities decided to finally provide us with the appointment date.
“We managed to persuade all 60 residents to vaccinate and their next of kin also agreed.
“The authorities will also provide vaccines to 50 of our workers and we are very happy.
“The seniors don’t go anywhere but the workers return to their families and go about their daily routine.
“This puts the care home in danger too if the workers are not vaccinated,” she added.