Hong Kong: Reaching homebound elderly through door-to-door vaccination drive

Mrs Chan Au Kwai Fan, in her 80s, has spent most of her years in Wong Tai Sin. She moved to the district after marrying her husband, Chan Choi Yip, and there she brought up her children and took care of her grandchildren.  

The couple has been longing to see their family. ©MSF

She used to go to the market and worship at Wong Tai Sin Temple every morning until the COVID-19 outbreak interrupted her routine. Like many elderly people in Hong Kong, she has stopped going out for months and feels the impact on her social life and mental health.   

My daughter asked us not to go out to prevent us from catching the virus outside. I don’t want to worry my children and hope they can concentrate on their work. I have seldom left my house and have not visited Wong Tai Sin Temple to worship since the outbreak

- Mrs Chan Au Kwai Fan

Their daughter living in the neighborhood has helped them to buy food and essentials and visited them every one to two weeks since the outbreak.  But Mr Chan was hospitalized for a few days due to a stroke at the end of last year. He has not left home to meet neighbours in the park since he was discharged from hospital. He said, “I do not dare to go out myself and can only stay at home because of the outbreak and my deteriorating vision after the stroke.” 

Mr Chan has not left home for a few months since he was discharged from hospital. ©MSF

Mrs Chan has tried to adapt to the situation through television programmes.  “People teach us how to do exercises at home and calm oneself. I follow the instructions and practice. As long as I am healthy, I will not overthink about other matters.”  

The couple has been longing to see their family. The warm wishes of their grandsons are a comfort to them during the outbreak. Mrs Chan mentioned several times that their grandsons sometimes called and chatted with them. The youngest grandson even asked if he could visit them.  She said with a smile, “His studying is not very good. I told him he can come to visit us when he gets a higher score at school.” 

The couple has been longing to see their family. ©MSF 

The elderly vaccination rate is relatively low in Hong Kong. Some elderly citizens have not received the vaccine due to the fear of going out and the inability to reach the health facilities.  

Homebound elderly who live alone are among the more vulnerable communities. They are not able to get vaccinated at centres because they can’t leave home and they lack the knowledge to register for vaccination online.

- Dr. Nason Tan, Regional Director of Operations Support Unit of Medecins Sans Frontieres

In view of their needs, MSF launched a mobile vaccination programme for homebound elderly in partnership with Christian Family Services Centre in March. The couple is among the participants in the programme. They considered having a COVID-19 vaccination so they could go back to their normal routine. However, it was a challenge for their daughter to bring them both to vaccination centre because of their health conditions.  

When they learnt from their social worker from Christian Family Services Centre about the mobile vaccination programme for homebound elderly, they talked to their daughter and immediately decided to join the programme. They had the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of April.  

And now what is on their wish list after getting vaccinated? 

 “I want to have dim sum in a restaurant with my children and grandchildren,” Mr Chan said. In addition to this, Mrs Chan has another wish - worshipping at Wong Tai Sin Temple. She said, “I will pray for the whole community and my family in front of Wong Tai Sin. I wish I will stay healthy and will not become a hindrance to my children.” 

Hong Kong