SINGAPORE: At the opening of Sembawang Polyclinic on Nov 25 (Saturday), Health Minister Ong Ye Kung was especially pleased, given that the new polyclinic is in his constituency. And while he talked about initiatives to encourage better health in the area, he also took the opportunity to sound a note of caution against the misperceptions that have been spread concerning COVID-19 vaccines.
“These days when you talk to a resident and tell him or her to take the COVID-19 vaccination at least once a year to keep their ‘antidote’ up, so that if they are ever infected, their risk of severe illness and hospitalisation will be minimised; the reaction, which is quite common now, is that they worry about side effects. The side effects of vaccination are well established – a bit of ache in the arm or slight fever, but that is about it,” said Mr Ong. He added, however, that when residents worry about severe side effects such as stroke, cancer, and heart attacks and associate this with vaccinations, this misperception needs to be corrected.
“We have been very transparent about the side effects and risks of all vaccinations. In the case of COVID-19 vaccination, the risk of myocarditis, especially amongst younger males, is well established and we have been publishing the results. But even before COVID-19 and vaccination, every day, there are 60 Singaporeans who either suffer a heart attack or stroke, and six more Singaporeans require kidney dialysis.”
These diseases are caused by lifestyles over many years, he added, including a diet with too much salt and sugar, smoking and not getting enough exercise. “But when you have so many people suffering from stroke, heart attack, and dialysis every day, after a while, they start associating and blaming it on vaccination,” the Health Minister said.
“Our problem with chronic illness and rising incidence of cancer is due to our lifestyle over time, and exposing ourselves to risk factors. Vaccination helps to protect us against severe illness during infection that will come wave after wave. We cannot link the two. If we are really worried about heart attack, cancer and stroke, we should change our lifestyle in time, to live a healthier lifestyle.
In the meantime, COVID-19 and different types of infections are still around, so do take our vaccination and protect ourselves against it,” he added.
Mr Ong also referred to recent news of infections in China amid the cold weather season. He said it would be timely to be reminded that “if we stop vaccinating, something similar may happen here when protection from previous vaccination wanes.”
He underlined the importance of keeping up with vaccinations. For children, it means adhering to the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule, and for older people and those who are medically vulnerable, keeping up with vaccinations includes getting COVID-19 vaccines.
Read also: MOH records first child death from COVID-19 in Singapore /TISG