Not appropriate to lift measures at this stage: Janil Puthucheary on calls for VDS to be relaxed immediately


Syahindah Ishak | March 09, 2022, 05:42 PM

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"Vaccination was not the universal panacea we imagined and had little impact in reducing both infection rate and the spread of the virus, especially with the current Omicron variant."

This was according to Progress Singapore Party (PSP) Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai.

Government should ease VDS measures: Leong Mun Wai

In Parliament on Wednesday (Mar. 9) during the Committee of Supply debates, Leong said that although vaccines reduce the severity of Covid-19 infections, they have "generally fallen short in their touted efficacy".

He urged the Government to relax the vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS), stating:

"It is time for the Government to show its magnanimity to this small group of unvaccinated people by relaxing the VDS measures, and not continue to punish them for making rational personal choices. They are not troublemakers as the Government seems to make them out to be.

With the continuous surge in Omicron infections despite all the VDS measures in place, [this] indicates that the VDS measures are not critical in the fight against the virus anymore. Hence, VDS should be relaxed immediately."

Leong added that since the VDS measures were introduced in July 2021, a number of Singaporeans who had "fairly personal reasons not to vaccinate" have suffered.

Their movements "continue to be restrained", and some had to "give up their right to employment due to such restrictions", he explained.

Leong further stated:

"The relevance and justification of VDS measures have dwindled, and I believe the general public does not view this as being favourable nor fair. Singaporeans who are unvaccinated are genuinely concerned about their health, and each has valid concerns about the vaccine."

He added that the Government should instead focus its resources on "approving more therapeutics" for general practitioners (GPs) to treat patients to deal with the surge in infections.

Cases of children with side effects from vaccines

Leong had also cited the latest vaccine safety update by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), which reported 10 cases of children aged five to 11 with serious side effects following vaccination, as well as 280 cases of non-serious side effects in the same age group.

"This is of particular concern and warrants closer scrutiny," he said.

"One case of severe reaction compromising a child's health going forward is one case too many, given the fact that children are largely spared from any adverse health challenges from Covid infection."

Response from Senior Minister of State for Health

In response to Leong, Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Health Janil Puthucheary said:

"Mr Leong Mun Wai, I feel, has cherry-picked the data. He's advocating on behalf of individuals who have not been vaccinated. That's quite reasonable. But I think he should have proper understanding of the effectiveness of vaccination as the most effective intervention that we have in our Covid-19 fight."

Janil then shared other points of data.

He said that for individuals below the age of 12, there are about 40 per million severe adverse reactions reported after vaccination, most of whom will recover "quite quickly... with no long-term effects".

On the other hand, Janil said that when an individual under 12 years old is infected by Covid-19, the risk is that about 320 individuals per million will develop MIS-C, a multisystem inflammatory syndrome, and about 450 per million will develop myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.

Janil said each of these illnesses may require admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) and have the potential to be fatal.

He then said:

"So you can see that the infection-related complications are at least 10 times more frequent than any side effects from the vaccine, even if most of the side effects of the vaccine are short, temporary, and don't have any long term consequences.

So these infection-related complications are much more frequent, potentially more severe, as compared to vaccine-related adverse events. And the odds are clear. Every case of MIS-C, myocarditis is one too many."

He added that Leong should weigh up "both sides of the risk".

Janil also stated that for Covid-19 patients who are hospitalised, a vaccinated individual who has received their booster dose is 33 times less likely to die from the virus as compared to individuals who are not fully vaccinated.

He had earlier pointed out that three per cent of Singapore's adult population who are not fully vaccinated accounted for 25 per cent of Covid-19 ICU cases and deaths in the country.

He said: "So Mr Leong, it's not appropriate to lift the measures at this stage. Once the Omicron wave has subsided, we'll be in a better position to ease our safe management measures further."

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