Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member Brad Bowyer took to Facebook on Monday (21 December) to provide an explanation over his earlier remarks on COVID-19 measures, which drew criticism from a fellow party member, Kala Manickam.
It all started in a Facebook post last week on Thursday (19 December) where Mr Bowyer questioned the need to wear masks and for social distancing measures to continue, which resulted in Ms Manickam rebuking him for his “irresponsible” comments.
Mr Bowyer, who contested in the recent general election as part of the PSP’s team in Nee Soon GRC, also voiced his distrust in the COVID-19 vaccines.
Following his post – which is no longer available as Facebook removed it – Ms Manickam criticised Mr Bowyer in the comment section of his Thursday’s post.
The PSP member, who also contested at Nee Soon GRC along with Mr Bowyer, pointed out that she was disappointed that Mr Bowyer is trivialising the COVID-19 crisis.
She noted, “Being a COVID-19 survivor, I am extremely disturbed by the misinformation and fear you are spreading.”
Ms Manickam had told The Straits Times that she was tested positive for the coronavirus on 27 August, just a day after her mother was also tested positive for COVID-19.
Ms Manickam was the approved caregiver for her mother during her 14-day quarantine after she returned to Singapore from India on 14 August.
Ms Manickam also pointed out that although there were gaps in communication from the Government when the pandemic first started in Singapore, she believed that it has “generally done well in the past few months since the election”.
She added that making it mandatory to wear masks, social distancing and calibrated reopening of the economy are measures that are important to protect the community.
“In the midst of a public health pandemic, we should not spread conspiracy theories on vaccines, like what you are doing here,” she said.
She continued, “We have to follow the lead of the Government and health professionals to keep our people safe. Surely the economy cannot be more important than human beings”.
Mr Bowyer questioned in his post why is Singapore not able to enter Phase 3 of its reopening earlier than 28 December, since there have been “virtually no new cases in the community for months”.
He went on to question the Government for “pushing experimental vaccines with known side effects”, pointing out that the threat for the coronavirus is “virtually zero” and the disease does not require “serious treatment”.
Mr Bowyer said that the Government should instead promote “healthy lifestyle, exercising in the sun, nutrition and other natural immune-system-boosting activities” to safeguard people from COVID-19 and other future viruses.
As a reply, Ms Manickam said: “I am alarmed at your recent posts on the topic because I stood with you as a candidate in Nee Soon GRC… I believe the Party has to distance itself from your dangerous opinions.”
Mr Bowyer responds
Following Ms Manickam’s criticism over Mr Bowyer’s previous post, the latter took to Facebook today to justify the points he had made earlier.
Mr Bowyer said that his earlier Facebook post was removed by the company without notifying him or offering him any reason, hence the public is not able to read it and understand his points.
“Firstly, the actual post in question, which I had made alongside the recent BBC article “Covid-19: Singapore migrant workers infections were three times higher” is no longer available for viewing because sometime last night Facebook took it upon itself to remove it giving me no notification or reason so sadly it is not available for you to personally see and read,” he wrote.
In response to Mr Bowyer’s claim that Facebook removed his post without notifying him, a spokesperson from Facebook told TOC: “We do not allow people to share misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts. This includes false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of vaccines.”
The post was removed because it included several claims about alleged side effects that have been debunked by global public health experts
In today’s post, Mr Bowyer also opined that the questions he raised in his earlier post were “fair” and it had been “grossly mischaracterized and taken out of the context”.
However, people would not be able to see it now as it was deleted, he noted.
“Secondly I feel the questions I had posed were fair and were asking for hard evidence and justifications for the current and continued policy landscape and the timing given the changing public information available revealed both at Monday’s PM statement and the following press conference and from overseas sources as the global pool of knowledge about Covid grows.
“I feel this has been grossly mischaracterized and taken out of the context but sadly you can no longer see for yourself due to the deletion,” he explained.
Mr Bowyer went on to clarify that the views he makes online are his own and that he is “extremely glad” to be part of PSP as it allows its members to have their own voice on social media.
This is because Mr Bowyer believes that it is “important to have a proper discourse about such issues in the public domain even if they are sometimes difficult conversations to have”.
The PSP member also apologised to Ms Manickam for feeling the way she did, and wished her well given that she was tested positive for COVID-19 a few months ago.
“I will continue to post on topics I feel we need to discuss and as I always do will do so within the guidelines set by the party and adjust if necessary or asked to from time to time as I am still learning all the subtle nuances of being a political figure in Singapore,” he concluded.
Commenting on Facebook’s clarification of the post’s removal, Mr Bowyer told TOC that his post on Thursday raised questions about the safety of the vaccines based on the “publicly acknowledged risk of anaphylactic shock” as well as concerns on birth defects.
He said Pfizer prohibit pregnant women from taking the vaccine. They also cautioned individuals against having unprotected sex for 28 days after the last dose of the vaccine.
Additionally, the UK’s own medical guidelines also “recommends two months abstinence” as they are unaware of the effects of the vaccines.
Separately, Mr Bowyer also noted that he questioned if the benefit of the vaccine is worth the risks since the Government had announced that even with the vaccination, the public still has to continue wearing masks and practice safe-distancing rules.
“And I questioned: is the benefit worth the risks especially as we are now told regardless of vaccine it won’t change masking etc contrary to what we have been told for the last 8 months or so,” Mr Bowyer said.
Last Tuesday (15 December), a healthcare worker at the Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, Alaska, has reportedly developed a severe allergic reaction after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine despite not having a history of allergic reactions.
The middle-aged woman had to be hospitalised overnight for observation due to the symptoms, as reported by NBC.
Dr Lindy Jones, the emergency physician who treated the woman, said the next day that the woman had no history of allergies, but she had an anaphylactic reaction about 10 minutes after receiving the vaccine. Her reactions include feeling flushed and shortness of breath.
The woman’s reaction is believed to be similar to the two cases of anaphylaxis reported in Britain last week.
Just a day after the woman’s allergy reaction case, her male colleague reportedly suffered an allergic reaction 10 minutes after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at Bartlett Regional Hospital.
Over in Singapore, the HSA has recently granted an authorisation for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to be used in the city-state, with the first shipment due to arrive in Singapore by the end of December.
“HSA’s review of the available clinical data found that the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the known risks. The vaccine demonstrated a high vaccine efficacy of 95%,” it said in a statement last week.
Citing the vaccination regime submitted by Pfizer-BioNTech, HSA said two doses are required to be administered 21 days apart, in people aged 16 years and above.
“Pregnant women, immunocompromised persons and those under the age of 16 should also not receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as the safety and efficacy data on this group of persons is not available yet,” it stated.
Additionally, people with a history of anaphylaxis or the rapid onset of severe allergic reactions should not receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a precautionary measure.