POFMA Office instructed to issue correction direction to Truth Warriors website for falsehoods on COVID-19 vaccines, ivermectin
SINGAPORE: The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office has been instructed to issue a correction direction to local website Truth Warriors over falsehoods relating to the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and for promoting ivermectin to treat the coronavirus.
"Many of the materials published on the Truth Warriors website mislead people into thinking that COVID-19 vaccines are not effective in reducing transmission rates of COVID-19, and promote the safety and efficacy of ivermectin in preventing viral infections and treating COVID-19," said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Sunday (Oct 24).
MOH added that these materials are from unverified and dubious sources, and individuals who heed the advice on the website can endanger themselves and the people around them.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has instructed the POFMA Office to issue the correction direction to Truth Warriors, MOH said.
The website is required to publish the correction notice at the top of each webpage containing the falsehoods.
"The Government takes a serious view of the deliberate communication of these falsehoods, and criminal investigations will be conducted," said MOH in a press release which was issued at about 11.55pm.
The health ministry had earlier in October said that it was aware of local websites - including Truth Warriors - posting unverified and potentially misleading information on COVID-19 and vaccines.
CLARIFICATIONS ON FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT VACCINATION
MOH addressed two particular claims published on the Truth Warriors website; that the most vaccinated countries have the most cases and deaths per million population and the least vaccinated countries have the fewest cases and deaths per million population, and that vaccines do not prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
"These claims are false," said MOH, adding that as of Oct 23, "the weight of international evidence shows categorically that vaccines reduce COVID-19 infection, as well as serious illness and mortality rates from COVID-19 infection".
"The latest data does not support the claim that countries with the highest vaccination rates also have the highest cases/deaths per million population. While some countries with the lowest vaccination rates also have low reported COVID-19 deaths, this is likely due to poor record collection for both vaccinations and deaths."
MOH said that while COVID-19 vaccines do not completely stop viral transmission, they do reduce the risk of transmission.
"Vaccinated persons are less likely to transmit the virus than unvaccinated persons. Furthermore, while the vaccine on its own does not kill the virus, it is false to suggest that the effect of the vaccine on the immune system does not lead to the killing of the virus.
"The vaccines cause the body to produce antibodies and immune cells that act against the virus and, in effect, kill it."
MOH ADDRESSES FALSE CLAIMS ON IVERMECTIN
MOH said that the Truth Warriors website also claimed that ivermectin prevents COVID-19 infection, and that it is safe and effective in treating COVID-19, even for pregnant women.
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has "strongly advised" consumers against self-medicating with ivermectin.
In an advisory on Oct 5, it said that "ivermectin is a prescription-only medicine registered in Singapore specifically for the treatment of parasitic worm infections".
"It is not an anti-viral medicine and is not approved by HSA for use in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19," it added.
The health ministry said that it and HSA are aware of members of the public trying to import or use ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19.
"Self-medicating with ivermectin can be dangerous to one’s health," said MOH, adding that anyone convicted of of the illegal sale of ivermectin faces a fine of up to S$50,000, a jail term of up to two years, or both.
Side effects of self-medicating with the drug include vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, neurologic adverse events such as dizziness, seizures and confusion, a sudden drop in blood pressure, severe skin rash and liver injury. Ivermectin can also interact with other medications, such as blood thinners.
MOH said the Truth Warriors website also shares user-collated and unverified data on suspected vaccine injuries in Singapore, citing the SG Suspected Vaccine Injuries Telegram chat as its source.
"We advise members of the public not to speculate and/or spread misinformation which may cause public alarm, and to refer to credible sources of information instead."