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Using volunteers to help gain senior citizens’ trust

Seniors are more receptive to vaccination when they have good peer support.

SENIOR citizens should be given accurate information on Covid-19 vaccines by people they trust so that they can make an informed decision, say experts.

As for those warded in hospitals who do not have their next of kin with them, a qualified person such as a medical doctor should be allowed to give the consent for their vaccination, with prior approval from family members.

Persatuan Kebajikan Usiamas Malaysia president Datuk Rohaini Mohd Yusof uses a simple method to persuade seniors, especially Muslims, to take the jab.

She tells them that they cannot fulfil their religious obligation overseas unless they vaccinate.

“I just tell them to forget about their dreams to travel, including going for Haj or Umrah unless they vaccinate.

“Then they will change their mindset and it works all the time,” said Rohani, who recently took her first dose of the vaccine.

She said the association has over 400 volunteers who assist seniors, especially those who are living independently.

However, during the pandemic, only those who are low risk have been active in helping the seniors. “The health officers brief the association’s volunteers, who in turn, help answer questions from the seniors on the process. “I urge more non-governmental organisations to be roped in to help facilitate the process. “Many seniors who live alone don’t want to get vaccinated or even open their doors to strangers. “This is when you need volunteers who know them and can help speed up the process,” she said. University Malaya Medical Centre consultant geriatrician Prof Dr Tan Maw Pin said seniors who were warded in hospital sometimes missed the opportunity to be vaccinated because their next of kin were not there to sign the relevant forms. “We hope these forms can be signed before admission or even by the doctor with approval from family members. “Bear in mind that the seniors who have regular hospital visits need to be vaccinated because the chance of them catching the virus is very high. The more they travel to and from the hospital, the greater the risk,” she stressed. Prof Tan added that there was a real issue of seniors refusing to be vaccinated due to peer pressure. “The way to address this is by vaccinating senior community leaders. They need to know their peers have been vaccinated and they will follow suit. “In future, senior care homes and even restaurants can encourage only seniors that have been vaccinated to visit their premises,” she said. Association for Residential Aged Care Operators of Malaysia president Delren Terrence Douglas said the authorities must come up with a standard operating procedure when a senior care home has many Covid-19 positive cases. He cited the case of a home in Sungai Petani, Kedah, which recorded 22 positive cases. But the infected residents were still at the home. “Some were asymptomatic but we don’t know what the SOP is in such cases,” he said.

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