Students and Teachers Join Fight Against COVID-19 in Hong Kong
Teachers, students and alumni from the University of Hong Kong’s LKS Faculty of Medicine (HKUMed) have stepped up to help vulnerable groups in recent weeks as Hong Kong faces a massive wave of COVID-19 infections.
HKUMed’s efforts in the community are focused on children and the elderly, as their weaker immune systems and comparatively low vaccination rates put them at highest risk from the surge in COVID-19 cases.
In a series of proactive steps to protect these groups, Professor Gabriel Leung, Dean of Medicine, and HKUMed students took part in a vaccine outreach programme at a residential care home for the elderly in early March.
“Almost 900 residential care homes for the elderly have reported COVID-19 cases among staff and residents, making the urgency of increasing vaccine coverage ever more acute,” Professor Leung said.
“The battle fronts against the Omicron wave must go beyond hospital walls. In response, the HKUMed community has been proactively reaching out to the wider Hong Kong community to test, jab and care — for the common good of all.”
At the start of Hong Kong’s fifth COVID-19 wave, the territory’s nursing homes had a vaccination rate of around 16 percent.
Andrian Chan, a year 4 Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) student, took part in the vaccine outreach programme for nursing home residents.
“We originally had more residents willing to vaccinate, however within one day, over half the number of those willing to vaccinate caught COVID and were not eligible to take the jab,” he said. “It definitely feels like a race against time to vaccinate as many people as possible.”
Chan said HKUMed students made phone calls to the families of elderly care home residents who were initially unwilling to go ahead with COVID-19 vaccinations, helping to change their minds and allow the residents to be vaccinated.
Separately, the HKUMed-operated Community Vaccination Centre (CVC) pivoted to exclusively vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 and students and teachers were deployed across the territory to aid public health efforts.
Cindy Man, Nurse in Charge at the HKUMed-run vaccination centre at Gleneagles Hospital Hong Kong said the centre had been given a child-friendly revamp, complete with special stickers and cartoon accessories for staff.
“We want to create a happy and joyful environment where the children can get their vaccines,” she said.
Her team have administered around 200,000 COVID-19 vaccinations since early 2021, and have now adapted the process for their younger visitors. Man explained that unlike adults, children receive the shot in the thigh, unless the family requests the injection in the arm.
And a team of experienced HKUMed pharmacists ensure the BioNtech vaccines — children receive a third of the dose of that for an adult — are prepared correctly.
Communication is key to putting the children at ease, Man said. “Our nurses carefully explain the whole process to the children using a gentle tone and we let them bring their books or toys as a distraction. Lastly, our experienced nurses give the injections quickly,” she added.
Students from the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) and Bachelor of Nursing programmes took part in an outreach vaccination programme for children at The Mission Convenant Church Holm Glad №2 Primary School in March.
There the students picked up skills ranging from data entry to ampoule extraction and learning how to keep small children calm during their vaccinations.
“As we all know, Hong Kong has been severely disrupted by the current epidemic situation and I believe the best way to defend ourselves from the virus is to get vaccinated,” said Arthur Lau, a year 5 MBBS student. “My biggest takeaway is learning how to put the child at ease and having them leave the room with a smile on their face.”
Groups of nursing students and teachers also provided care to elderly patients recovering from COVID-19 or awaiting admission to hospital at a temporary centre at Choi Wing Road.
Kenny Chan, a year 5 Bachelor of Nursing student, said the experience had helped develop his basic nursing skills and taught him how to work with limited resources.
He and his classmates assisted patients with their medication and personal care as well as helping them to take rapid antigen tests so they could return home as soon as possible.
“I received feedback that after our group of students arrived at the centre, the condition of the patients really improved, so I’m very pleased that we could lend a helping hand,” he said.