The POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) Office issued correction directions to two people in Singapore on Nov. 29 for spreading falsehoods on Covid-19 vaccines.
The two individuals are Goh Meng Seng and Cheah Kit Sun.
Cheah is a Singaporean Hugo-nominated science fiction author, and Goh is the leader and founder of the People's Power Party.
The correction directions were issued at the instruction of Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung.
Claims that Covid-19 vaccines are dangerous are false: MOH
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said there are "false and misleading statements" about Covid-19 vaccines in Cheah's blog post, titled "Do Not Participate In A Society that Rejects You".
The post was published on Oct. 20 on various online locations, and was shared by Goh on Facebook on the same day, who wrote that it was a "very well written piece".
In response, MOH said on Nov. 29 in a press release: "The post has been written to falsely exaggerate the dangers of Covid-19 vaccines, and to discourage people from taking them."
"In particular, the blog post misleads people into thinking that the Covid 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," and the "Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in Singapore are safe," wrote MOH.
The vaccines have been assessed to be safe and effective internationally by reputable health and scientific agencies, and in Singapore by both the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination (EC19V), MOH added.
Cheah and Goh are required to publish the correction notices as specified by the POFMA Office for each webpage and social media post containing the falsehoods.
Vaccines have not caused a substantially higher rate of serious injury and death: MOH
In Cheah's post, he claimed that Covid-19 vaccines have caused a substantially higher rate of serious injury and death, based on data from the United States’ Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
"The Covid vaccines are also the most dangerous ever developed in recent memory. Reported adverse events and deaths from the Covid vaccine in one year is an order of magnitude higher than all vaccines combined in the past 10 years."
MOH debunked his claim, and wrote that the VAERS data do not support the claim that Covid-19 vaccines have caused a substantially higher rate of serious injury and death.
The ministry stated that "it is misleading to compare the absolute number of reported adverse events and deaths for Covid-19 and non-Covid vaccines".
This is because while the Covid-19 vaccines have been given to a very large proportion of the U.S. population in 2021, other vaccines have been given to substantially fewer individuals in any given year.
MOH added that there is much higher surveillance and awareness of adverse event reporting for Covid-19 vaccines compared with other vaccines.
According to the ministry, "any member of the public may report adverse events and deaths to the VAERS system".
This is regardless of whether it is caused by vaccines or other factors, and no proof is required that the adverse event or death was caused by the vaccine.
Furthermore, these reports are not required to be verified, often lack details, and sometimes contain errors, wrote MOH.
Adverse events in this case need not be serious, and include mild side effects such as rash, cold, or headaches.
Falsehoods can have "serious health consequences"
As of Oct. 31, the serious adverse event incidence rate reported by healthcare professionals to Health Sciences Authority (HSA) is 0.006 per cent of total doses administered, according to MOH.
No deaths have been attributed to the Covid-19 vaccines thus far, MOH stated.
"If people believe these falsehoods, there could be serious health consequences for those who then remain unvaccinated," MOH wrote.
"It is important to correct these falsehoods, especially given the ongoing vaccine booster exercise," MOH added.
Follow and listen to our podcast here
Top images by Cheah Kit Sun/Twitter and Goh Meng Seng/FB.