Singapore

Author, Goh Meng Seng issued Pofma correction direction for post with 'exaggerated' vaccine data from US system


SINGAPORE – Two men have been issued correction directions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) for sharing misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.

They are local author Cheah Kit Sun – who wrote a blog post in October titled Do Not Participate In A Society That Rejects You – and opposition party chief Goh Meng Seng, who shared the post.

Each will have to publish correction notices at the top of each webpage or social media post containing the false statements.

“It is important to correct these falsehoods, especially given the ongoing vaccine booster exercise,” said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a statement on Monday (Nov 29).

Mr Cheah had stated that Covid-19 vaccines are “the most dangerous ever developed in recent memory”.

He also cited data from the United States Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (Vaers), claiming that these vaccines have caused more serious injuries and deaths than all other vaccines combined over the past decade.

These claims are false, MOH said, adding that Covid-19 vaccines approved for use here have been assessed to be safe and effective by reputable health and scientific agencies worldwide.

In Singapore, these vaccines are assessed by both the Health Sciences Authority and the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination.

As of Oct 31, just 0.006 per cent of vaccine doses have resulted in serious injuries. No deaths have been attributed to vaccination so far.

“The benefits of receiving Covid-19 vaccines continue to far outweigh the risks of vaccination,” MOH said.

It also debunked the comparison to yearly Vaers data, which is often used by anti-vaccination groups as evidence that supports their stance.

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This is because Covid-19 vaccines were given to a very large proportion of the US population. In comparison, other vaccines were given to “substantially fewer” individuals in any given year preceding the pandemic.

The ministry said it is thus misleading to compare the absolute number of serious injuries and deaths resulting from Covid-19 vaccines and other vaccines.

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Secondly, there has been much higher surveillance and awareness of adverse event reporting for Covid-19 vaccines, compared with other vaccines.

Lastly, Vaers data is self-reported – meaning that any member of the public may make a report to the Vaers system without the need for it to be verified.

“They often lack details and sometimes contain errors. No proof is required that the adverse event or death was caused by the vaccine,” MOH pointed out.

In addition, adverse events in the Vaers system need not be serious, and can include mild side effects such as rashes, colds or headaches.

“(Mr Cheah’s) post has been written to falsely exaggerate the dangers of Covid-19 vaccines, and to discourage people from taking them,” the ministry said.

“If people believe these falsehoods, there could be serious health consequences for those who then remain unvaccinated.”

This article was first published in The Straits TimesPermission required for reproduction.



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