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Man who got first Covid-19 dose died of heart attack; MOH says panel concluded death unrelated to vaccine

SINGAPORE — A man who received his first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine died of a heart attack the day after, but the Ministry of Health (MOH) has said that an independent clinical panel found no indication that 57-year-old Yak Hock Hwa’s death was caused by the jab.

Man who got first Covid-19 dose died of heart attack; MOH says panel concluded death unrelated to vaccine

About an hour after Yak Hock Hwa was taken to the National University Hospital (pictured), he died from a heart attack.

  • Yak Hock Hwa received a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on March 5 and died the next day
  • His death was assessed to be cardiology-related, NUH said
  • An independent clinical panel assessed his death to be unrelated to the vaccine
  • His family is still seeking further explanations from the authorities

 

SINGAPORE — A man who received his first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine died of a heart attack the day after, but the Ministry of Health (MOH) has said that an independent clinical panel found no indication that 57-year-old Yak Hock Hwa’s death was caused by the jab.

In response to TODAY’s queries on Saturday (May 22), MOH said: “Based on the assessment by an independent clinical panel, there is no indication that the death was due to Covid-19 vaccination. The certified cause of death was acute myocardial infarction.”

Acute myocardial infarction is the medical term for a heart attack.

MOH also said in its response that to date, there has not been any deaths in Singapore assessed to be caused by the Covid-19 vaccine.

Yak, a private-hire car driver, had received his first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on March 5 at a vaccination centre in Bukit Timah Community Club, after the authorities offered the jabs to active taxi and private-hire car drivers from late February. He died the next evening.

Ms Yak Mui Wah, 54, the deceased’s sister, said that her brother had initially felt fine right after he received the jab and went on to drive from 4am to 4pm as usual the next day.

It was only around 7pm on March 6 that he started feeling uncomfortable, saying that he was breathless and that his hand felt numb.

Ms Yak, who is an accountant, said that she did not think much of it at first because she thought that what her brother was experiencing was a common side effect from the vaccine.

When her brother’s condition did not improve, she decided to take him to the hospital.

As they were about to leave the house, Ms Yak said she discovered that her brother had collapsed in the living room of their flat.

Yak Hock Hwa was then taken to the National University Hospital (NUH) by ambulance. An hour later at about 10pm, Ms Yak was told that her brother had died from a cardiac attack.

Yak Hock Hwa, who is divorced, leaves behind a daughter — a 17-year-old junior college student.

NUH said in response to TODAY’s queries that the cause of his death was cardiology-related, based on the symptoms he presented and findings from an electrocardiogram, a medical test that records the heart’s electrical activity.

It added that a review of the medical management of Yak Hock Hwa from his arrival to demise found that his case was properly managed in a timely manner, and that both the hospital's emergency and cardiology specialist teams were activated to receive the man before his arrival.

“Unfortunately, the patient’s condition deteriorated rapidly and he did not respond to resuscitation efforts,” NUH said.

The hospital emphasised again that an independent clinical panel had concluded that Yak Hock Hwa’s death was unlikely to be related to the Covid-19 vaccination that he received.

NO HISTORY OF HEART PROBLEMS, SIBLINGS SAY

Speaking to TODAY during a recent interview, the man’s brother, Mr Yak Chin Hua, 60, a quantity surveyor, said that the family was in shock after their brother’s sudden death.

Both siblings said that their brother had been given a clean bill of health over the last two years through periodic health screenings.

Though Yak Hock Hwa had a history of diabetes and high blood pressure, his latest work-related medical screening on Jan 28 certified him medically fit, based on a copy of the examination report seen by TODAY.

The report stated that he showed no evidence of abnormality of the cardiovascular system.

The last major procedure that Yak Hock Hwa had was a spinal decompression surgery in 2018, his siblings said.

As far as they know, their brother has never suffered from any cardiac-related events.

In response to TODAY’s queries, MOH said that Yak Hock Hwa had been assessed by a trained healthcare personnel to be suitable for vaccination before he received the jab.

He was also observed on-site for 30 minutes after he received his shot and was well, the ministry said.

TODAY understands that the family declined an autopsy into his death.

When asked about this, Ms Yak said that the family decided not to go ahead with one because the NUH doctors were confident that her brother died of a heart attack unrelated to the vaccine.

Therefore, they did not believe that an autopsy would shed any light as to whether his death was linked to the vaccine in any way.

Yak Hock Hwa’s daughter had also asked for the autopsy to not be performed, Ms Yak said.

Earlier this month, the Health Sciences Authority said that around 2,800 “adverse events” have been reported out of the 2.2 million vaccine doses administered here between December last year and mid-April.

It added that no deaths have been linked to the jabs, and that there are no indications of strokes or heart attacks linked to the two vaccines used in Singapore so far.

Even so, the Yak family is hoping that the authorities can provide them with further explanations, or release the full report, on how they assessed the man’s death to be unrelated to the Covid-19 vaccine that he received.

They are also hoping to receive compensation from the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme, which offers a one-time goodwill payment to people who experience serious side effects that are assessed to be related to Covid-19 vaccines administered in Singapore.

It offers two tiers of support to those who may be adversely affected by their inoculation.

The first is a one-time payout of up to S$10,000 that will be given to those who are hospitalised and need care in a high-dependency or intensive care unit, but who later recover from the side effects caused by the vaccine.

The second is a payout of S$225,000 that will be provided when a person dies or suffers permanent severe disability as a result of the vaccination.

The family has not officially submitted an application for the programme, but they have been told that their brother is ineligible for the payout because his death was deemed to be unrelated to the vaccine, based on email correspondence between Mr Yak Chin Hua and an MOH official seen by TODAY.

 

The family continues to be in touch with MOH and Members of Parliament (MP) Tan Wu Meng of Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC), and Ms Sim Ann of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, for help on the matter.

Some of the deceased’s siblings — including Ms Yak — live in Clementi and Dr Tan is the MP of the district, while Ms Sim is the MP of the district where Yak Hock Hwa’s ex-wife and daughter live.

Mr Yak Chin Hua said: “I cannot let (this situation) go indefinitely. I want to see something being done.”

Dr Tan told TODAY that he and his team have been in close touch with the school principal of Yak Hock Hwa’s daughter to arrange expedited support for her, including helping with her school fees.

While the daughter lives outside his ward, Dr Tan has been updating the community team looking after her estate so that they may look out for her and her mother.

“The family are deeply affected and one can understand their concerns, given that Mr Yak (Hock Hwa) passed away suddenly and soon after vaccination.

“We have conveyed the family's concerns to MOH, which I understand has looked thoroughly into the matter, and we will continue doing our best to support the family through this very difficult time,” he said.

In her reply, Ms Sim said that she and her team have offered help to Yak Hock Hwa’s next-of-kin.

“The late Mr Yak’s siblings have also approached me to ask that letters be written to various parties dealing with matters of administration arising from his demise, which we have done,” Ms Sim said.

Because the family informed her that none of them has medical training, Ms Sim said that she has offered to find a doctor who can look through the available medical documents on a voluntary basis and help them understand MOH’s findings as an unrelated third party.

“We have yet to find a doctor who would be willing to do so. My team and I will keep trying,” she said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DARYL CHOO

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Covid-19 coronavirus vaccination vaccine death

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