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Weekly Asian Medical News Bulletin – 13 October 2023

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Medical Channel Asia presents the weekly Asian medical news bulletin, bringing you essential healthcare news from across the region. This week’s bulletin covers a heartwarming story in Malaysia, COVID-19 vaccines and more. 

Singapore

A comprehensive study conducted in Singapore indicates that individuals who contracted COVID-19 and recovered but were not vaccinated face a heightened risk of heart complications up to a year post-infection. These complications encompass conditions like heart failure, stroke, and blood clots.

Compared to those uninfected, the risk for such complications in this group rose by 56%. An examination of the medical records of 106,012 Singapore residents diagnosed with COVID-19 revealed that 912 experienced prolonged symptoms, including fatigue, breathing difficulties, memory issues, and heart-related problems. Notably, among the recovered, 311 individuals who were previously free from irregular heartbeats developed this condition a year post-Covid infection.

Also reported this week:

Haze Alert: Singapore’s Air Quality Drops to Unhealthy Levels

Singapore Faces New COVID-19 Wave, Stresses Importance of Continued Vaccination

Singaporeans Endure Hazardous Haze: Indonesian Wildfires Spark Three-Year Air Quality Low

Thailand

Thailand faces a critical flu outbreak, with over 185,000 reported cases from January to September this year, primarily affecting females and children. Within Health Area 9, covering four northeastern provinces, there’ve been 18,186 cases with one fatality in the same timeframe. Alarmingly, in the past eight weeks, there were 10,424 cases, marking a significant surge compared to previous years. Nakhon Ratchasima has been hardest hit, recording 4,088 cases, a six-fold increase from last year. The neighbouring provinces also report vast increases in cases. Health officials emphasise the importance of protective measures, especially wearing masks.

Malaysia

Malaysian Celestine Chek suffered a brain aneurysm shortly after starting a new job in Singapore, leading to a significant medical bill of SGD100,251.45 (RM347,564). With her health insurance cancelled by her employer because she hadn’t begun her first day and her family able to pay only a small portion, they appealed for financial help. Singaporean media, 8world, and a fundraising campaign on Give.Asia highlighted their plea. They raised over SGD102,000 (RM353,626), showcasing the community’s willingness to assist in challenging times.

Also reported this week:

Agilent and Sarawak Infectious Disease Centre Partner to Boost Neglected Tropical Diseases Research in East Malaysia (HCP Portal)

Maternal TDAP Vaccination in Malaysia: A Step Forward in Eradicating Pertussis

Philippines

The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) says that while the prescription and over-the-counter market is improving, growth rates remain below pre-pandemic figures. PHAP’s Executive Director, Teodoro Padilla, mentioned a double-digit contraction during the pandemic peak and anticipates a full recovery in a few years, given a favourable environment for biopharmaceutical innovation. Issues like supply chain, pricing, and access to medicine have worsened due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Additionally, only 676 out of 19,000 medicines registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are part of the Philippine National Formulary (PNF), limiting access. The government must procure the medicine and make it available in public health facilities if it is part of the PNF – a process that usually takes 2-3 years.

Also reported this week:

Philippine Department of Health in Favor of Legalising Medical Marijuana in the Country

Department of Health Clarifies Nipah Virus Situation in the Philippines

Metro Manila opens Memory Care Centers (MCC) in its Top Three Hospitals

Indonesia

A video featuring former Indonesian health minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, has gone viral, suggesting that pineapple and turmeric can treat myocarditis caused by COVID-19 vaccines. Shared on Facebook on September 3, 2023, the video has garnered over 122,000 views. In the clip, Siti Fadilah refers to Dr. William Makis of Canada, claiming he found that curcumin (in turmeric) and bromelain (in pineapple) can counteract the alleged vaccine side effect.

Notably, Siti Fadilah, health minister from 2004 to 2009, is recognised for propagating conspiracy theories related to the WHO and expressing vaccine scepticism. She was imprisoned 2017 for accepting bribes in a medical equipment procurement scheme.

Vietnam

The WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, praised Vietnam’s health sector achievements in a video on October 5. He highlighted Vietnam’s progress over the years, such as the significant increase in life expectancy since 1945, reduced preventable diseases like polio, and advancements against malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis. He also commended Vietnam’s expansion of its health insurance system and efforts to reduce smoking rates. Additionally, he recognised Vietnam’s robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasising its focus on vulnerable groups and swift vaccination campaign. The WHO Director-General reaffirmed the organisation’s commitment to supporting Vietnam in its pursuit of health advancements.

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