Children to get vaccination earlier

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From 1 December, children will receive both doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination at a younger age, after the Ministry of Health (MOH) accepted a recommendation from the Expert Committee on Immunisation.

MOH said the earlier vaccinations will help reduce the number of measles cases seen in unvaccinated children aged 15 months and below.

Under these recommendations, children will get their first dose at 12 months, instead of the previous 12 to 24 months.

The second dose will also be brought forward from six to seven years to between 15 and 18 months.

MOH said that providing the two doses at a closer interval will also ensure almost all vaccinated children are sufficiently protected against measles earlier in their lives

It added that the MMR vaccination is the most effective way to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella, which are highly contagious childhood diseases that can lead to serious complications in children and in the case of measles, even death.

The ministry advises that children who have either started or completed their vaccination with 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) be given a supplemental dose of 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13).

It said PCV13 contains six additional pneumococcal serotypes including the emergent serotype 19A, which can cause invasive pneumococcal disease.

This vaccine protects against pneumococcal disease, caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.

Pneumococcal infection is one of the most common causes of pneumonia and bacterial meningitis which is the infection of the membrane covering brain and spinal cord, and also middle ear infection in children. – CNA

Singapore to boost palliative care sector

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Singapore’s 42-year-old Assisi Hospice will be redeveloped as part of national plans to expand and train the professional pool for the palliative care sector.

Speaking at the hospice’s charity dinner Monday evening, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said with longer life expectancy and a rise in chronic diseases, the medical care which people need at the end of life will change significantly.

The Assisi Hospice has been offering compassionate and holistic care for its patients over the past four decades.

And by end 2014, the new purpose-built wing will be housed adjacent to the current complex at Thomson Road.

Ms Irene Chan, executive director of Assisi Hospice, said: “There are some features that we want to bring into the hospice that affirms life. For example, family rooms for families who stay with their loved ones during this difficult time of their lives, as well as common dining rooms where patients and families can share a meal together.”

The hospice currently has 36 beds, serving some 1,000 patients.

The hospice’s model of care comprises an inpatient service, home care service and a day care centre to meet the different needs of its patients and their families. With operating expenses coming to about S$7 million this financial year, it’s hoping to raise about 60 per cent of this amount at its annual charity dinner.

Palliative care is one area that the Health Ministry is focusing on under its primary healthcare masterplan.

Mr Gan said: “While the palliative care sector had historically focused on patients with advanced cancer, there is increasing recognition that patients with non-cancer conditions can also benefit from palliative care. Hence, we need to continuously modify our care model in order to respond to changing disease profiles and tackle new sets of medical complexities and challenges going forward.”

This includes adding more professionals to the sector.

The number of nurses trained in palliative care has gone up by 14 per cent over the past year.

As part of efforts to enhance training, Mr Gan said Project CARE, a three-year pilot programme funded by the Health Ministry, will be scaled up across the healthcare continuum in the coming years.

The project is currently being taken on by seven MOH-funded nursing homes near Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The aim is to improve end-of-life care provision.

Care staff from the nursing homes undergo palliative care training to facilitate Advance Care Planning discussions with patients and their families on the patient’s care goals and treatment preferences at the end of life.

Mr Gan noted death is still a taboo topic, with families of patients deeming end-of-life care as “futile”.

He said his ministry will continue to work with the community to correct this misconception.

Singapore currently has seven inpatient and home hospice providers.

They serve about 5,000 palliative care patients every year.

Source: CNA