Man who got first Covid-19 dose died of heart attack; Singapore MOH says panel concluded death unrelated to vaccine

The National University Hospital said that the cause of Yak Hock Hwa's death was cardiology-related based on the symptoms he presented and findings from an electrocardiogram. — TODAY file pic
The National University Hospital said that the cause of Yak Hock Hwa's death was cardiology-related based on the symptoms he presented and findings from an electrocardiogram. — TODAY file pic

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SINGAPORE, May 24 — A man who received his first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine died of a heart attack the day after, but the Ministry of Health (MOH) has said that an independent clinical panel found no indication that 57-year-old Yak Hock Hwa’s death was caused by the jab.

In response to TODAY’s queries on Saturday (May 22), MOH said: “Based on the assessment by an independent clinical panel, there is no indication that the death was due to Covid-19 vaccination. The certified cause of death was acute myocardial infarction”.

Acute myocardial infarction is the medical term for a heart attack.

MOH also said in its response that to date, there has not been any deaths in Singapore assessed to be caused by the Covid-19 vaccine.

Yak, a private-hire car driver, had received his first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on March 5 at a vaccination centre in Bukit Timah Community Club, after the authorities offered the jabs to active taxi and private-hire car drivers from late February. He died the next evening.

Yak Mui Wah, 54, the deceased’s sister, said her brother had initially felt fine right after he received the jab and went on his regular 4am to 4pm private-hire driving shift the next day.

It was only around 7pm on March 6 that he started feeling uncomfortable, saying that he was breathless and that his hand felt numb.

Yak, who is an accountant, said she did not think much of it at first as she thought what her brother was experiencing was a common side effect from the vaccine.

But because her brother’s condition did not improve, she decided to take him to the hospital.

As they were about to leave the house, Ms Yak said she discovered her brother had collapsed in the living room of their public housing flat.

Yak Hock Hwa was then taken to the National University Hospital (NUH) by ambulance. An hour later at about 10pm, Ms Yak was told that her brother had died from a cardiac attack.

Yak Hock Hwa, who is divorced, leaves behind a daughter — a 17-year-old junior college student.

NUH said in response to TODAY’s queries that the cause of his death was cardiology-related, based on the symptoms he presented and findings from an electrocardiogram, a medical test that records the heart’s electrical activity.

It added that a review of the medical management of Yak Hock Hwa from his arrival to demise found that his case was properly managed in a timely manner, and that both its emergency and cardiology specialist teams were activated to receive the man before his arrival at the hospital.

“Unfortunately, the patient’s condition deteriorated rapidly and he did not respond to resuscitation efforts,” said NUH.

The hospital emphasised again that an independent clinical panel had concluded that Yak Hock Hwa’s death was unlikely to be related to the Covid-19 vaccination that he received.

Man had no history of heart problems, say siblings

Speaking to TODAY during a recent interview, the man’s brother,Yak Chin Hua, 60, a quantity surveyor, said the family was in shock by their brother’s sudden death.

Both siblings said their brother had been given a clean bill of health over the last two years through periodic health screenings.

Though Yak Hock Hwa had a history of diabetes and high blood pressure, his latest work-related medical screening on Jan 28 certified him medically fit, based on a copy of the examination report seen by TODAY.

The report stated that he showed no evidence of abnormality of the cardiovascular system.

The last major procedure that Yak Hock Hwa had was a spinal decompression surgery in 2018, his siblings said.

As far as they know, their brother has never suffered from any cardiac-related events.

In response to TODAY’s queries, MOH said Yak Hock Hwa had been assessed by a trained healthcare personnel to be suitable to be vaccinated before he received the jab.

He was also observed on-site for 30 minutes after he received his vaccination and was well, said the ministry.

TODAY understands that the family declined an autopsy into his death.

When asked about this, Yak said the family decided not to go ahead with one as the NUH doctors were confident that her brother died of a heart attack unrelated to the vaccine.

Therefore, they did not believe that an autopsy would shed any light as to whether his death was linked to the vaccine in any way.

Yak Hock Hwa’s daughter had also asked for the autopsy to not be performed, said Ms Yak.

Earlier this month, the Health Sciences Authority said that around 2,800 “adverse events” have been reported out of the 2.2 million vaccine doses administered here between December last year and mid-April.

It added that no deaths have been linked to the jabs, and that there are no indications of strokes or heart attacks linked to the two vaccines used in Singapore so far.

Even so, the family is hoping that the authorities can provide them with further explanations, or release the full report, on how they assessed the man’s death to be unrelated to the Covid-19 vaccine that he received.

They are also hoping to receive compensation from the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme, which offers a one-time goodwill payment to people who experience serious side effects that are assessed to be related to Covid-19 vaccines administered in Singapore.

It offers two tiers of support to those who may be adversely affected by their inoculation.

The first is a one-time payout of up to S$10,000 (RM31,171) that will be given to those who are hospitalised and need care in the high-dependency or intensive care unit, but who later recover from the side effects caused by the vaccine.

The second is a payout of S$225,000 that will be provided when a person dies or suffers permanent severe disability as a result of the vaccination.

The family has not officially submitted an application for the programme, but they have been told that their brother is ineligible for the payout because his death was deemed to be unrelated to the vaccine, based on email correspondence between Mr Yak Chin Hua and an MOH official seen by TODAY.

MPs offering help

The family continues to be in touch with MOH and Members of Parliament (MP) Tan Wu Meng, of Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC), and Ms Sim Ann, of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, for help on the matter.

Dr Tan is the MP of some of the deceased’s siblings — including Yak — who live in Clementi, while Sim is the MP of Yak Hock Hwa’s ex-wife and daughter.

Yak Chin Hua said: “I cannot let (this situation) go indefinitely. I want to see something to be done.”

In response to TODAY’s queries, Dr Tan said that he and his team have been in close touch with the school principal of Yak Hock Hwa’s daughter to arrange expedited support for her, including helping with her school fees.

While the daughter lives outside his ward, Dr Tan has been updating the community team looking after her estate so that they can look out for her and her mother.

“The family are deeply affected and one can understand their concerns, given that Mr Yak (Hock Hwa) passed away suddenly and soon after vaccination.

“We have conveyed the family’s concerns to MOH, which I understand has looked thoroughly into the matter, and will continue doing our best to support the family through this very difficult time,” he said.

In her reply, Sim said that she and her team have offered help to Yak Hock Hwa’s next-of-kin.

“The late Mr Yak’s siblings have also approached me to request for letters to be written to various parties dealing with matters of administration arising from his demise, which we have done,” said Sim.

Because the family informed her that none of them has medical training, Sim said she has offered to find a doctor who can look through the available medical documents on a voluntary basis and help them understand MOH’s findings as an unrelated third party.

“We have yet to find a doctor who would be willing to do so. My team and I will keep trying,” she said. — TODAY

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