Singapore minister slams doctors for spreading myths, untruths in open letter on Covid-19 vaccine

A supply of Pfizer’s vaccine against Covid-19 is seen at Dekalb Pediatric Center in Decatur, Georgia, US on May 11, 2021. — Reuters piv via TODAY
A supply of Pfizer’s vaccine against Covid-19 is seen at Dekalb Pediatric Center in Decatur, Georgia, US on May 11, 2021. — Reuters piv via TODAY

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SINGAPORE, May 23 — Referring to an open letter by 12 doctors to parents questioning the long-term safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use on children, Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon said he was “aghast and disappointed” by the doctors’ conduct.

In a Facebook post yesterday, he wrote that the “unscientific and unprofessional” way in which these doctors had interpreted scientific evidence and conducted themselves had also “created confusion and fear” in the public.

“It created confusion and fear in the public and propagated myths and untruths,” wrote Dr Koh, who is a colorectal surgeon.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, one of the two Covid-19 vaccines approved for use here, was earlier this week approved by the Health Sciences Authority to be safe for use for those between the ages of 12 and 15.

The letter from the doctors, dated May 20 and addressed to parents who are deciding whether to vaccinate their children, contained a list of issues that the doctors urged parents to think through carefully before choosing to inoculate their children against Covid-19.

The original letter mentioned the following doctors along with their medical licence numbers: Dr Benny KH Tan, Dr Chia AM, Dr Clement Lai, Dr Colleen Thomas, Dr CT Tan, Dr Diane Jek, Dr Judy Chen, Dr Kee Leng Chee, Dr Kho Kwang Po, Dr Khoo Boo Kian, Dr Paul IW Yang and Dr Suzie Lee.

Eleven of the doctors, excluding Dr Khoo, eventually retracted their letter and said they were withdrawing their “humble ponderings” as some of their thoughts may be misunderstood by some laypersons.

“We will henceforth ponder in a more professional and private forum,” they said.

In a statement on Friday, Singapore’s expert committee on coronavirus vaccination responded to that letter and laid out its reasons for deeming the vaccine to be safe and efficacious for this age group.

The doctors’ letter cited a study suggesting that the RNA from Sars-Cov-2 — the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 — can be converted into DNA using an enzyme called reverse transcriptase, which the doctors said is “very troubling”.

The statement from the expert committee clarified that the vaccine, which makes use of messenger ribonucleic acid technology (mRNA), cannot alter a person’s DNA.

Dr Koh said he was “glad” to see other doctors stepping up and speaking out against such untruths.

“I urge all of us to get our information from reliable sources The fight against Covid-19 will continue to evolve as new data and development present themselves,” he added.

“We need to navigate this with scientific rigor and not let our emotions or personal biases create more confusion.” — TODAY

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