Expert committee in S'pore refutes new open letter by doctors calling for Covid-19 mRNA vaccination for children to be halted

Another open letter.

Belmont Lay | June 28, 2021, 05:52 PM

The expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination in Singapore has again responded to yet another open letter from a group of doctors here, who this time are calling for vaccination of children to be halted.

The open letter has made its rounds in the public sphere, where it has been taken seriously by some quarters who noted that one of those who penned it is a cardiologist.

Latest letter

The group of doctors here made its position known in an open letter on social media, which was signed by five individuals: Wong Wui Min, A M Chia, L W Ping, I W Yang, and Kho Kwang Po, a cardiologist and heart specialist.

History of doctors signing open letters regarding Covid-19

Chia and Yang were among a group of doctors who lodged a petition on June 4 calling on the Singapore government to include Sinovac in the national vaccination programme.

Earlier in May, Chia, Yang and Kho were part of a group of 12 doctors who wrote an open letter addressing parents and asking them to carefully consider before choosing messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) Covid-19 vaccination for their children.

Subsequently, 11 out of 12 doctors who signed this letter retracted their signatures.

Another separate WhatsApp message being circulated is by Gabriel Oon, the doctor who led Singapore's hepatitis B vaccination project in the 1970s and 1980s.

Oon said that mRNA vaccines are ineffective against the B1617 variant first detected in India.

Singapore's vaccination programme uses both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that rely on mRNA technology.

Expert committee responds

In response, the expert committee in Singapore said it was aware of the latest letter.

The expert committee reiterated its stance that receiving the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine provides benefits that outweigh the risks.

Why doctors penned latest open letter?

The open letter emerged following reports of the United States Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention’s (CDC) investigations into the death of a 13-year-old boy there.

The child died following his second dose of mRNA vaccination.

The CDC is the U.S. national public health agency.

What expert committee said

The expert committee here responded by pointing out that the cause of the young boy's death is not conclusive.

The expert committee said: "The social media post indicated that the 13-year-old male from the U.S. had died from heart failure, although no cause of death has been made public and the case is currently under investigation by the U.S. authorities."

It added: "The post also highlighted the recent international reports of the association between myocarditis and dose 2 of the mRNA vaccines in young men."

But this risk, according to the expert committee, is known and rare.

Expert committee sticks by its consistent advice

On June 11 previously, the expert committee had already highlighted the possibility of a "small risk" of myocarditis and pericarditis associated with the second dose of the mRNA vaccines.

The latest precautionary advice issued by the expert committee is similar to the advice issued on June 11.

The expert committee said again, parroting its previous advice: "However, as a precaution, we also recommend that vaccinated persons, in particular adolescents and younger men, should avoid strenuous physical activity for one week after their second dose."

Problems with mRNA vaccinations rare

And even if there have been incidents of problems stemming from mRNA vaccinations in the U.S., they are not widespread.

The expert committee in Singapore added: "The data reported from the U.S. indicates that the cases of myocarditis following mRNA vaccinations are rare."

"In addition, among the small number of cases, almost all had resolved with minimal medical intervention."

The expert committee also pointed out that professional medical associations in the U.S. "have continued to strongly encourage vaccination in everyone aged 12 and older".

Open letter slammed

The director at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) in Singapore has also come out to slam the latest open letter by doctors as bad science.

In a lengthy Facebook post on June 28, Lye criticised the cherry-picking nature of the open letter as it zoomed in and magnified certain risks, while ignoring the overall benefits to children.

Lye wrote, questioning the motive of the doctors who put up the open letter: "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."

Top photos via MOE & MOH