BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Health authorities have debunked a viral message claiming that a 20-year-old man’s death was linked to a COVID-19 vaccine.

In response to the rumours circulating on social media, the health minister said the man’s cause of death was not related to vaccination as he was diagnosed with an endocrine disorder about a month before getting his jab.

“The disease causes a person’s metabolism to increase and it affects all organs, especially the heart. Unfortunately, if the disease is not controlled or treated well with medicine, it can result in death,” YB Dr Hj Md Isham Hj Jaafar said at the daily COVID press briefing on Wednesday.

“Based on what he went through, [his death] was most likely caused by the illness,” he added.

The minister also warned the public against spreading misinformation as they can be brought to court to face criminal charges.

A healthcare worker prepares a syringe with the Pfizer vaccine on Nov 8, 2021. Photo: Rudolf Portillo/The Scoop

Brunei has not reported any fatalities linked to COVID vaccines, but the head of the ministry’s Disease Control Division previously said a number of people had experienced severe adverse reactions such as anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction) after taking the jab.

“There are a number of people who have got anaphylaxis following [vaccination] but they have been treated and discharged,” Dr Justin Wong said in an interview last October.

One person developed myocarditis (inflammation of heart muscle) after taking a mRNA vaccine, but the patient’s case was mild and he was eventually released from hospital, Dr Wong added.

He explained that a severe adverse reaction is “anything bad that happens within 28 days after vaccination”.

“For example, if you break your arm within 28 days after your vaccine dose, that will be considered a severe adverse event.

“It’s not necessarily a reaction from the vaccine, but it is something for us to consider investigating,” Dr Wong said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is “rare” to find COVID vaccines causing health issues.

“Health problems following vaccination are most often found to be coincidental and entirely unrelated to vaccination,” WHO said.

FILE PHOTO: Vials labelled Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer – Biontech, Johnson & Johnson, Sputnik V are seen in this illustration picture taken May 2, 2021. Photo: Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters

MoH may move up booster rollout to combat Omicron

Addressing waning vaccine efficacy, YB Dato Dr Hj Md Isham said MoH is studying the need to speed up the rollout of booster shots following the emergence of the Omicron variant.

“In Europe and the US, they’re reanalysing the need to give boosters earlier than expected. If there are findings saying that [booster shots] should be given earlier, then maybe we’ll align it.”

Frontliners and seniors aged 50 and above are currently prioritised for COVID booster jabs.

For people who have taken either the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine, the health ministry recommends that a booster shot be given five months after the second dose. For those who have taken the Sinopharm jab, a booster can be administered three months after the second dose.

A total of 84.3 percent of Brunei’s population has been fully vaccinated with a two-dose regimen, while at least 3.6 percent have received booster shots.

Brunei maintained its downward trend of coronavirus infections after the health ministry reported 15 new cases on Wednesday.

The cumulative number of confirmed infections stands at 15,244.