NCID director debunks ‘misleading’ anti-vaxxing messages from Singapore doctors

A photo of David Lye superimposed on the NCID headquarters at Jalan Tan Tock Seng road, at right. Photos: NCID, Google Maps
A photo of David Lye superimposed on the NCID headquarters at Jalan Tan Tock Seng road, at right. Photos: NCID, Google Maps

Singapore epidemiologist David Lye today called out local doctors who have been petitioning against the use of mRNA vaccines. 

Lye, who heads infectious disease research and training in Singapore, today encouraged Singaporeans to opt for the Messenger RNA, or mRNA vaccines, as they have been proven to be effective against the coronavirus, while slamming local doctors for spreading social media messages suggesting otherwise. The messages had also urged the government to approve the Sinovac killed-virus vaccine despite the lack of research findings. 

“Recently, I suffered insomnia reading messages and petitions urging parents not to vaccinate their teenagers, demanding that our government stop mRNA vaccines and use Sinovac, and advising ivermectin as treatment and prevention for COVID instead of vaccination,” he wrote in a lengthy online post today, a month after his coronavirus warning went viral. 

He later added: “Doctors are well respected in our society. Hence their advice may influence the public to avoid COVID vaccination. We should be upset when these doctors quote dubious international experts and research potentially misleading the public.”

A group of doctors, including reputable ones like Paul IW Yang, had on May 20 circulated a message on social media channels like WhatsApp questioning the long-term side effects of mRNA vaccines on children while calling on the Health Ministry to “quickly approve” the use of Sinovac. A day after the message went out, the doctors retracted their statement.

Separately, doctor Oon Chong Jin, known for his work on hepatitis B vaccination in Singapore, wrote on WhatsApp that the mRNA vaccines were “useless” against the B1617 variants discovered in India while also urging authorities to use Sinovac instead.  

None of the doctors mentioned ivermectin, which was found to be ineffective against the coronavirus, according to findings from the National University Health System in April.  

Singapore currently offers vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which are both mRNA vaccines. The former has been approved for those 12 to 15. Singapore recently allowed private clinics to administer the Sinovac vaccine. 

Lye said there were more studies to back the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines as compared to Sinovac.

“There is hardly any data on Sinovac against the variants. Laboratory studies showed that Sinovac may not work well in Brazilian b1128 and South African b1351 variants,” he wrote. He also said that the United Kingdom has recorded a 50%-60% reduction in transmission after residents were given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

About 40% of Singaporeans have received their first dose of vaccination. More than 400,000 students aged 12 and up registered for their vaccination last week.

“I urge the Singapore public to be aware and alert of fake science on social media. Anti-vaccine groups from Singapore and overseas are highly active. We must win this war against the virus. Effective COVID vaccines are a part of our solution,” Lye said. 

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