POFMA correction directions issued to Cheah Kit Sun, Goh Meng Seng over COVID-19 vaccine falsehoods
SINGAPORE: Correction directions have been issued to author Cheah Kit Sun and opposition politician Goh Meng Seng over a blog post that "falsely" exaggerates the dangers of COVID-19 vaccines and discourages people from taking them, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Monday (Nov 29).
"It is important to correct these falsehoods, especially given the ongoing vaccine booster exercise," said the ministry.
Mr Cheah's blog post, titled Do Not Participate in a Society that Rejects You, was published on Oct 20 on various online locations.
It was also shared on the Facebook page of Mr Goh, the founder of People's Power Party, on the same day.
The directions, issued under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), require them to carry a correction notice alongside their blog post and social media post.
CLARIFICATIONS ON FALSEHOODS IN THE BLOG POST
"The blog post misleads people into thinking that the COVID-19 vaccines are the most dangerous developed recently as they have caused a substantially higher rate of death and serious injury compared to all other vaccines over the last 10 years," said MOH.
"These claims are false", said the ministry, adding that COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Singapore are safe.
"They have been assessed to be safe and effective internationally by reputable health and scientific agencies, and in Singapore by both the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination."
As of Oct 31, the serious adverse event incidence rate reported by healthcare professionals to HSA is 0.006 per cent of total doses administered.
Thus far, no deaths have been attributed to the COVID-19 vaccines, added MOH. "The benefits of receiving COVID-19 vaccines continue to far outweigh the risks of vaccination."
MOH added that the United States’ Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) data also do not support the claim that COVID-19 vaccines have caused a substantially higher rate of serious injury and death.
"COVID-19 vaccines have been given to a very large proportion of the US population in 2021, while the other vaccines have been given to substantially fewer individuals in any given year.
"Thus, it is misleading to compare the absolute number of reported adverse events and deaths for COVID-19 and non-COVID vaccines," the ministry said.
There is also much higher surveillance and awareness of adverse event reporting for COVID-19 vaccines, compared with other vaccines, noted MOH.
It added that any member of the public may report adverse events and deaths to the VAERS system, regardless whether it is caused by vaccines or other factors.
"The reports are not required to be verified," said MOH.
"They often lack details and sometimes contain errors. No proof is required that the adverse event or death was caused by the vaccine. And adverse events need not be serious; they include mild side effects such as rash/cold/headaches."
MOH said Mr Cheah's post was written "to falsely exaggerate the dangers of COVID-19 vaccines, and to discourage people from taking them".
"If people believe these falsehoods, there could be serious health consequences for those who then remain unvaccinated," said the ministry.
"As stated earlier, the evidence so far is that serious adverse events have been reported in only 0.006 per cent of total doses administered."
MOH advised the public not to speculate and/or spread misinformation that may cause public alarm, and to refer to credible sources of information instead.