A member of the public Andrew Seow Chwee Guan wrote to ST Forum on 27 Apr asking the government to consider giving grants for the elderly to get key vaccinations, especially the pneumococcal jabs to prevent pneumonia.
Pneumonia is known to have caused complications in elderly leading to life-threatening conditions like from low blood pressure and kidney failure to bacteremia, an infection that spreads to the bloodstream.
Mr Seow opined that one main reason why the take-up rate of the vaccination is low may be due to cost, especially for low-income families.
“They are likely to prioritise their daily basic needs over vaccinations,” Mr Seow said. “Polyclinics charge about $25 for an influenza vaccination, which is effective for a year, while a pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccination costs around $75 and is good for five years.”
Mr Seow noted that although Medisave can now be tapped for both flu and pneumonia jabs, many elderly may not have sufficient funds in their Medisave accounts as they are likely to have used the money for other medical problems.
He further added, “Even with the annual $200 top-ups to their Medisave accounts, as well as other eligible subsidies to pay for their annual MediShield Life premiums, the elderly may hardly have money left to use for vaccinations.”
He proposed that the government should take the lead by setting aside a grant for the two immunisation jabs for elderly people.
“With our rapidly ageing population, diseases are a concern among the elderly, whose low immunity may often lead to them being hospitalised. Among the common medical issues are influenza and pneumonia. After all, this is a form of appreciation to our pioneers who have, in one way or another, built this nation,” he said.
MOH: Medisave not enough, go use immediate family member’s
Today (7 May), the Director of Corporate Communications from the Ministry of Health, Lim Siok Peng, replied on ST Forum.
She said that under the Medisave500 scheme, persons in high-risk groups such as those aged 65 years and above, or those with certain pre-existing medical conditions, can use up to $500 per year for vaccinations, from their Medisave accounts.
“Patients who have lower Medisave balances may choose to tap their immediate family member’s (for example, child, spouse, parent) Medisave account, up to the prevailing withdrawal limits,” she added.
“Singaporeans who require additional financial assistance can apply for Medifund at approved institutions.”
In other words, other than going to apply for financial assistance from the government which itself is an onerous process, the elderly will have to use their children’s Medisave accounts, under the advice of Director Lim.
And when their children do not have enough in their Medisave accounts and need money for their own medical treatments or immunisation jabs, the grandchildren’s Medisave accounts will be used to support the 2 generations above them.
The future of Singapore’s next generation is indeed bleak, going by Director Lim’s advice.