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Infectious diseases expert slams open letter by 5 doctors for 'misleading' public on Covid-19 vaccines for youth

SINGAPORE — An infectious diseases doctor has hit back at an open letter calling for Singapore’s vaccination programme for young boys to halt, pointing out that it is the “same small group of doctors” that are trying to mislead and misinform the public once again.

Students at a vaccination centre in ITE College Central on June 7, 2021.

Students at a vaccination centre in ITE College Central on June 7, 2021.

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  • A new open letter penned by five doctors called for Singapore’s vaccination of young boys to pause
  • Associate Professor David Lye wrote a scathing response to the letter, questioning the doctors’ motives
  • They had made up the claim that a boy in US died from heart failure after a second vaccine shot, he said
  • Three of the undersigned doctors had written a now-debunked letter last month casting doubt on mRNA vaccines


SINGAPORE — An infectious diseases doctor has hit back at an open letter calling for Singapore’s vaccination programme for young boys to halt, pointing out that it is the same group of doctors who are trying to "mislead" and "misinform" the public once again.

In a scathing Facebook post on Monday (June 28) criticising the motives behind the letter, Associate Professor David Lye, a senior infectious diseases specialist at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, said that the letter was penned by three of the same doctors who were behind a previous letter by 12 doctors decrying the effectiveness and safety of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines.

Assoc Prof Lye is also part of the 14-member expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination advising the Ministry of Health (MOH).

The earlier letter had been debunked by the expert committee and specialists, and 11 doctors eventually retracted their names from it.

The new letter that circulated over the weekend and is published on the Facebook page of Dr Kho Kwang Po was also undersigned by Dr Wong Wui Min, a cardiologist and heart specialist at WM Wong Cardiac and Medical Clinic in Gleneagles Hospital.

A search of public records on Monday revealed that the other signatories were Dr Chia Ai Mian, Dr Louis Loo Wee Ping and Dr Yang Ing Woei. Dr Kho's medical registration could not be found in public records.

Dr Kho, Dr Chia and Dr Yang were also signatories on the previous petition. The latest letter was addressed to Professor Benjamin Ong, chairman of the expert committee.

They wrote asking for a “short delay” of a few weeks to Singapore’s “massive” and “most aggressive mRNA programme” for boys in the world, to allow more “high quality data” on the possible fatal effects of mRNA vaccines in youth to emerge from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other global bodies.

They also referred to the most recent data on myocarditis, or heart inflammation, in adolescents and asked if the authorities here could take “a more sensible and prudent posture”.

Warning about the "misleading" contents in the new open letter, Assoc Prof Lye urged people to “draw their own conclusions” based on the letter’s provenance.

The letter had asserted that more information about the vaccinations is needed, claiming that a 13-year-old boy in the United States had died from heart failure after getting the second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. 

Singapore had greenlit the rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine to those aged 12 to 15 last month, in light of the Delta variant of the coronavirus that was spreading at the time among school-going teenagers.

Responding to the letter, Assoc Prof Lye said: “Israel, which was initially not recommending vaccination in children, has now rushed to vaccinate children as Delta caused school outbreaks.

“Did we not have school outbreaks? While our Government strives to protect our children, these doctors are telling us to stop?”

Singapore was “lucky” to have very few children infected with the Delta variant, Assoc Prof Lye said. 

Unlike for adults, there are very few effective Covid-19 treatment options for children, he explained.

Pointing out several discrepancies and omissions in the writers’ claims, Assoc Prof Lye said that the letter did not say what would happen if the Delta variant had caused outbreaks among young children.

Citing studies, he said that a peer-reviewed analysis of 129 studies from 31 countries involving more than 10,000 children found that the reported rate of intensive care admission was 22.9 per cent and for death, it was 3.6 per cent.

Assoc Prof Lye also said that the letter ignored the US CDC’s conclusion in its risk analysis. 

The US CDC had said that even when taking into account the limited data available on the risk of myocarditis among those aged 12 to 15, the benefits of vaccinating young children with mRNA vaccines still outweigh the risks, the same stance Singapore's expert committee has taken.

The health authorities here had, on June 11, already highlighted the possibility of a small risk of myocarditis and pericarditis associated with the second dose of the mRNA vaccines.

News reports about the death of the 13-year-old also did not state that it was due to heart failure and the matter is still under investigation by the US authorities, the committee noted.

In his post, Assoc Prof Lye reiterated that the US and Singapore health authorities have highlighted the “slight excess risk”, explained the risk benefit and given advice on counter-measures needed, such as to avoid exercise for a week.

He said about the letter writers: “They made up their own story about the unfortunate death of a child in the US.

“These doctors really should tell us their true motive in repeatedly calling to stop mRNA vaccination. Clearly, they are selective in promoting certain information. They do not represent the majority of doctors.”

Dr Kho did not respond to TODAY’s enquiries.

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine vaccination Pfizer-BioNTech teenagers

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