SINGAPORE - The Republic's fake news law was invoked after unsubstantiated claims about adverse reactions to Covid-19 vaccines were posted on Facebook and published online by a website.
In a statement on Thursday (April 15), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said the Health Minister had instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office to issue the correction directions.
They were directed at the Facebook pages of Goh Meng Seng People's Power Party and Goh Meng Seng (Satu Singapura), as well as at the Singapore Uncensored website.
Posts published on April 2 on the Facebook pages of Goh Meng Seng People's Power Party and Goh Meng Seng (Satu Singapura) implied that the Covid-19 vaccination had caused or substantially contributed to a doctor in Singapore suffering a stroke.
The same Facebook accounts also published posts on April 7 implying that Covid-19 vaccination had caused or substantially contributed to the death of an 81-year-old man here.
MOH said that same day, Singapore Uncensored published an article on its website stating that an 81-year-old man had died from alleged vaccination complications.
The article was also shared on the website's Facebook page on April 7.
"These allegations are false. As of April 14, there is no credible evidence for an increased risk of heart attack or stroke with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines which are currently approved and offered in Singapore," said MOH.
It added that the medical team caring for the doctor has assessed that the doctor's current condition is highly unlikely to be related to the Covid-19 vaccination, and Mount Elizabeth Hospital had issued a clarification on April 4.
As for the 81-year-old man, MOH said the cause of death was ischaemic heart disease, which refers to the lack of blood circulation to the heart muscles.
"The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) Forensic Medicine Division has reported that based on the post-mortem, there was no evidence of acute anaphylaxis or an allergic reaction at the injection site of the Covid-19 vaccine.
"There was extensive narrowing of the three main blood vessels supplying blood to the muscles of the heart due to atherosclerosis (build-up of plaques over time in the blood vessels that obstruct blood flow)," said MOH.
Under Singapore's fake news law, parties who have received correction directions will be required to carry a correction notice alongside their posts.
Both Mr Goh and Singapore Uncensored have complied with the correction directions. These are the first Pofma correction directions issued since July last year.
In its statement, MOH said it is aware of falsehoods circulating that the Covid-19 vaccination has clear and causal links with stroke and heart attack.
"There are also third parties who have exploited the sharing of personal experiences by individuals, by reposting these personal accounts and making unsubstantiated claims about vaccine-related adverse reactions.
"They often continue to do so despite the original posts being removed or made private," it added.
MOH shared that Covid-19 vaccines that are used in Singapore have been assessed to be safe and efficacious by both the HSA and the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination.
"Medical teams are well-equipped and measures are in place at all vaccination sites to ensure the safety of vaccine recipients pre-, during, and post-vaccination.
"All vaccine-related incidents are taken seriously and healthcare professionals are required to report these incidents expediently to the MOH and HSA," the ministry said.
MOH advises members of the public not to speculate or spread unfounded rumours and to visit this website for the latest information on Covid-19 and its vaccinations.
For facts of the cases, people should refer to the Factually article "Corrections and Clarifications Regarding Falsehoods on Covid-19 Vaccination" at this website.
The facts of the cases
1. Doctor who suffered a stroke
The medical team caring for the doctor has assessed that the doctor's current condition is highly unlikely to be related to the Covid-19 vaccination.
The writer of the original Facebook post, Bun Ngok Fong, alleged that the doctor had a stroke a week after receiving the vaccine. The post also stated that the doctor is the writer's cousin.
In a Facebook post on April 4, Mount Elizabeth Hospital clarified that the allegations in the post are untrue.
The hospital added that the doctor's family has confirmed that the writer is not related to them. The doctor's family has also written to Facebook to have the post removed.
"You can help us stem the circulation of false information by not sharing the post, and deleting it if you have already done so," added the hospital.
2. 81-year-old man who died
The cause of death of the 81-year-old man was ischaemic heart disease, which refers to a lack of blood circulation to the heart muscles.
The HSA Forensic Medicine Division has reported that based on a post-mortem, there was no evidence of acute anaphylaxis or an allergic reaction at the injection site of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The main vessels supplying blood to the muscles of the heart were extensively narrowed due to the build-up of plaque over time, obstructing blood flow.
As at April 14, there is no credible evidence for an increased risk of heart attack or stroke with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines which are currently approved and offered in Singapore.