'Unverified and dubious': POFMA directive issued to anti-vaccine website Truth Warriors

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SINGAPORE — The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) has been invoked against the anti-vaccine website Truth Warriors for citing "unverified and dubious sources" that cast doubt on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Sunday (24 October) that many of the materials published on the website mislead people into thinking that vaccines are not effective in reducing transmission rates, and promote the safety and efficacy of ivermectin in preventing viral infections and treating COVID.

"Individuals who heed the advice of 'Truth Warriors' can endanger themselves and the people around them," said the ministry.

The Minister for Health has therefore instructed the POFMA Office to issue a Correction Direction to Truth Warriors. The website is required to publish the correction notice at the top of each webpage containing the falsehoods.

MOH added that criminal investigations will be conducted over the deliberate communication of these falsehoods.

False claims on vaccines

The ministry highlighted false claims stating that the most vaccinated countries have the most cases and deaths per million population, and the least vaccinated countries have the fewest cases and deaths per million population. Truth Warriors has also claimed that vaccines do not prevent the transmission of COVID.

Rejecting these claims as false, MOH stressed, "The weight of international evidence shows categorically that vaccines reduce COVID-19 infection, as well as serious illness and mortality rates from COVID-19 infection."

While some countries with the lowest vaccination rates also have low reported coronavirus deaths, this is likely due to poor record collection for both vaccinations and deaths, MOH said.

"Furthermore, while the vaccine on its own does not kill the virus, it is false to suggest that the effect of the vaccine on the immune system does not lead to the killing of the virus. The vaccines cause the body to produce antibodies and immune cells that act against the virus and, in effect, kill it."

The dangers of ivermectin

Truth Warriors also claimed that ivermectin prevents COVID infection, and that it is safe and effective in treating the virus, even for pregnant women. MOH stressed that ivermectin is a prescription-only medicine registered in Singapore specifically for the treatment of parasitic worm infections. It is not an anti-viral medicine and is not approved by the Health Sciences Authority for preventing or treating COVID-19.

Self-medicating with ivermectin can be dangerous, warned MOH, and side-effects include vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain and neurologic adverse events such as seizures and confusion. Ivermectin can also interact with other medications used, such as blood thinners.

Furthermore, the website shares user-collated and unverified data on suspected vaccine injuries in Singapore, citing the “SG Suspected Vaccine Injuries” Telegram chat as its source.

"We advise members of the public not to speculate and/or spread misinformation which may cause public alarm, and to refer to credible sources of information instead," said MOH, which referred to the Factually article regarding content about COVID-19 by “Truth Warriors”.

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