Grandma hospitalised after taking ivermectin for Covid-19
She did so on advice of church friends, who told her to avoid mRNA vaccines as they were 'against God's will'
A retiree has been hospitalised after taking a drug meant to treat parasite infestations, on the urging of church friends, to protect herself from Covid-19.
Madam Wong Lee Tak, 65, had taken four 3mg tablets of ivermectin over two days. She became ill last Friday, believed to be her second day of taking the prescription drug.
She suffered a 39.3 deg C fever and joint inflammation, said her daughter Vanessa Koh.
"She had some oats to eat before she took medicine, but she vomited everything violently. It just exploded out of her mouth," Ms Koh told The Straits Times yesterday.
Last Friday, she took her mother to Sengkang General Hospital, where she remains hospitalised in stable condition.
The family initially thought she was suffering from side effects of her first jab of the Sinopharm vaccine that she took on Sept 23.
Ms Koh, 32, said it had taken months of heated persuasion to convince her mother to get jabbed, as a group of close friends from the Church of the Risen Christ had urged her not to get vaccinated with the mRNA vaccines as it was against God's will.
She said the vaccine was crucial for her mother, as her history of high blood pressure and diabetes put her at risk of severe illness. In the end, her mother chose to get the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine.
It does not have the highest efficacy rate against Covid-19 but was better than nothing, said Ms Koh, who works in a bank.
She said her one-year-old son was looked after by her mother during the day.
"My son could feel something was not right with my mum on Friday when she kept lying on the bed. When we didn't let him near her, he wanted to cry," said Ms Koh.
"Today, he kept going to the study room, hoping to find her sitting there."
While looking after her mother when Madam Wong's symptoms first surfaced, Ms Koh found messages on her mother's phone that revealed a church member had taken orders for purchases of 1,000 ivermectin pills for $110.
Ivermectin cannot be purchased over the counter and is usually prescribed by a doctor to treat parasite infestations. It is also used in large quantities to treat animals for parasites.
The drug garnered attention late last year as a possible treatment for Covid-19, but the World Health Organisation warned on March 31 that there were no grounds for such claims and that it should be used only in clinical trials.
Ms Koh said she confronted her mother, who revealed she had purchased nine boxes of some 1,000 pills, as she believed the vaccine was useless.
"It was like carrying out my own mini drug raid. When I asked my mother why she was taking this, she couldn't tell me anything that was scientifically sound.
"I know she just wants to say that vaccines are satanic. She and her friends are not interested in science."
In Madam Wong's text messages, one church friend had told her, "don't allow Satan to win", and that the virus was a test of faith.
Ms Koh has never met the group members, and they have not contacted her or her mother since she fell ill.
The group administrators have since removed her mother from the Telegram chats and erased all conversations with her, she added.
"They shouldn't pretend that they are experts. They told her to get ivermectin, but now my mother is suffering alone. (These friends) have been a pain to the family for a long time, but this time it was a step too far," said Ms Koh, who posted about her mother's ordeal on Facebook on Sunday, along with photos of her mother's text conversations with various church friends.
Parish priest Edward Lim from the Church of the Risen Christ said on Facebook the church was aware that one of its parishioners had been hospitalised after ingesting ivermectin on the advice of some church friends.
He said the decision to be vaccinated is a personal choice but added: "We would like to advise everyone to protect themselves from the Covid-19 virus by taking officially prescribed safety measures available to them.
"Only accept vaccines approved by the authorities which are made available at accredited centres authorised to administer the jabs."