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Ong Ye Kung warns against WhatsApp messages using ‘poor math’, selective data on vaccinated Covid-19 patients in ICU

SINGAPORE — Health Minister Ong Ye Kung dismissed the selective quoting of data on the Covid-19 situation here by people who send inaccurate WhatsApp messages and said that such actions are “misleading” and “a disservice to the people”.

Ong Ye Kung warns against WhatsApp messages using ‘poor math’, selective data on vaccinated Covid-19 patients in ICU

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung (pictured) said that if the whole or 100 per cent of Singapore's population is vaccinated, every single case in intensive care units, every single death case will be vaccinated. It does not mean vaccines do not work.

SINGAPORE — Health Minister Ong Ye Kung dismissed the selective quoting of data on the Covid-19 situation here by people who send inaccurate WhatsApp messages and said that such actions are “misleading” and “a disservice to the people”. 

He was referring to viral WhatsApp messages where people want the Ministry of Health (MOH) to “come clean” on the reasons why 40 per cent of beds in intensive care units (ICUs) are filled by fully vaccinated Covid-19 patients, when they are supposed to be protected from severe infection.

“I think such selective quoting of data — 40 per cent of ICU beds occupied by vaccinated individuals, therefore vaccines don't work — I think this is selective use of data to mislead people. And it's a disservice to people,” Mr Ong, co-chair of the Government’s Covid-19 task force, said during a press conference on Saturday (Oct 23). 

“It's not about transparency or data. It's about the right application of math,” he added. 

“As I've said before, if the whole or 100 per cent of our population is vaccinated, every single ICU case, every single death case will be vaccinated. It doesn't mean vaccines don't work. What you need to look at is the incidence rate, what is the base.”

Unvaccinated seniors make up 1.5 per cent of Singapore’s total population, but they accounted for two-thirds of occupancy in ICUs and deaths over the last 28 days, he said. 

“So do get yourself vaccinated, and be careful of misleading WhatsApp messages and poor math.” 

Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, director of medical services at MOH, said that Covid-19 is an epidemic of the unvaccinated being infected and getting severely ill or dying. 

“This has been observed in other countries. And regrettably, it now appears to be the case also in Singapore,” he said. 

“There is a proportion of patients who are not fully vaccinated trending upwards, while those who are fully vaccinated — that proportion has correspondingly decreased over time.”

Providing more data to illustrate this, Assoc Prof Mak said that 3.5 per cent of all unvaccinated Covid-19 patients experienced severe illness where they required oxygen support or intensive care, compared with just 0.6 per cent of vaccinated patients. 

The overall risk of infected patients who need oxygen aid, intensive care or who have died, is 8.1 per cent of all unvaccinated people. 

The risk is only 1.4 per cent for people who are immunised.

“This means there's a relative risk of 5.8 times more for an unvaccinated person to get a severe infection compared to vaccinated people,” Assoc Prof Mak said. 

The risk goes up for unvaccinated people above 80 years old, with a 52.7 per cent risk of them requiring oxygen support, intensive care or dying. 

This compares to 13 per cent among the vaccinated patients, which translates to a relative risk of four times higher for the unvaccinated.

Furthermore, an unvaccinated case is 10.4 times more at risk of being placed in the intensive care unit or dying than a vaccinated case.

“The unvaccinated seniors above 80 years had then a 7.2 times relative risk higher than that of their vaccinated peers of needing ICU care or death,” Assoc Prof Mak said. 

Even though the total number of vaccinated Covid-19 patients in hospitals are higher than the unvaccinated, Assoc Prof Mak said that this is because the total number of people who are vaccinated in Singapore is much higher than the remaining ones among the population who have not yet been vaccinated. 

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story said that for those who were in ICU or have died, the relative risk for unvaccinated cases was 10.4 per cent higher. MOH has since clarified that an unvaccinated case is 10.4 times more at risk of being placed in the intensive care unit or dying than a vaccinated case.

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Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine Ong Ye Kung WhatsApp ICU vaccination

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