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Pofma correction order issued to science fiction author and Goh Meng Seng over Covid-19 vaccine false claims

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has invoked the anti-fake news law against a blog post published last month by a science fiction author over false claims about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines.

The Ministry of Health said that Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in Singapore, such as the Moderna vaccine (pictured), are safe.

The Ministry of Health said that Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in Singapore, such as the Moderna vaccine (pictured), are safe.

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  • Mr Cheah Kit Sun, a science fiction and fantasy author who goes by the pen name Cheah Kai Wai, put up a blog post
  • Published on Oct 20, it is titled “Do not participate in a society that rejects you”
  • MOH said the post “had been written to falsely exaggerate the dangers of Covid-19 vaccines and to discourage people from taking them”
  • The post was shared by opposition politician Goh Meng Seng on Facebook

 

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has invoked the anti-fake news law against a blog post published last month by a science fiction author over false claims about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines.

In a statement on Monday (Nov 29), MOH said that Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office to issue correction directions to Mr Cheah Kit Sun, who on Oct 20 published a post titled “Do not participate in a society that rejects you”.

Mr Ong has also directed the office to issue a correction direction to People’s Power Party founder Goh Meng Seng, a vocal critic of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) Covid-19 vaccines, for sharing the post on Facebook.

Mr Cheah and Mr Goh are required to publish the correction notices as specified by the Pofma Office for each webpage and social media post containing the falsehoods, MOH said.

“It is important to correct these falsehoods, especially given the ongoing vaccine booster exercise,” the ministry added.

“The post has been written to falsely exaggerate the dangers of Covid-19 vaccines and to discourage people from taking them. If people believe these falsehoods, there could be serious health consequences for those who then remain unvaccinated.”

The blog post by Mr Cheah, a science fiction and fantasy author who goes by the pen name Cheah Kai Wai, called on unvaccinated people in Singapore not to participate in society, among other things.

The post was written in response to recent Covid-19 rules that bar unvaccinated people from dining at eateries or visiting malls and attractions without a valid negative pre-event test result.

Mr Goh already received an earlier correction direction in April for falsely suggesting that Covid-19 vaccines “had clear and causal links with stroke and heart attack”. Last week, MOH refuted the opposition politician’s claim that the ministry had lied about not studying the efficacy of a traditional Chinese medicine on the coronavirus, calling it a “serious, baseless accusation”.

In particular, MOH said that Mr Cheah’s blog post misleads people into believing that Covid-19 vaccines are “the most dangerous developed recently” as they have caused a substantially higher rate of death and serious injury compared to all other vaccines over the last 10 years.

“These claims are false. Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in Singapore are safe,” MOH said.

It added that these vaccines have been assessed to be safe and effective internationally by reputable health and scientific agencies and by both the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and the expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination in Singapore.

As of Oct 31, the serious adverse event incidence rate reported by healthcare professionals to HSA is 0.006 per cent of all doses administered here.

An adverse event for vaccination is any undesirable medical condition that occurs after taking the vaccine, which does not necessarily have a direct link to it. It may be coincidental or related to an underlying or undiagnosed disease.

So far, no deaths have been attributed to the Covid-19 vaccines, MOH said. “The benefits of receiving Covid-19 vaccines continue to far outweigh the risks of vaccination.”

DATA FROM UNITED STATES

Mr Cheah’s post had used data from the United States’ Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) in a bid to show that vaccines are “potentially dangerous” and “cannot stop the spread of disease”.

He said the data showed that reported adverse events and deaths from the Covid-19 vaccine in one year was higher than from all vaccines combined over the past decade.

MOH said that Mr Cheah’s use of the data do not support the claim that Covid-19 vaccines have caused a substantially higher rate of serious injury and death.

First, Covid-19 vaccines have been given to a very large proportion of the US population in 2021, while the other vaccines have been given to substantially fewer people in any given year.

“Thus, it is misleading to compare the absolute number of reported adverse events and deaths for Covid-19 and non-Covid vaccines,” MOH said.

Second, surveillance and awareness of adverse event reporting is “much higher” for Covid-19 vaccines, compared with other vaccines.

Third, any member of the public may report adverse events and deaths to the VAERS system, regardless of whether it is caused by vaccines or other factors. These reports do not need 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 said.

It added that these reported adverse events also need not be serious and include mild side effects such as rash, cold and headaches.

MOH advised the public not to speculate or spread misinformation, which may cause public alarm.

Instead, it urged people to visit its website for the latest information on Covid-19 and vaccinations, or refer to HSA’s monthly safety update for reports on serious adverse events from coronavirus vaccines.

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus coronavirus vaccine Pofma MOH HSA Goh Meng Seng

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