Malaysia: Anti-vaccine groups and anti-vaccine fake news


Anti-vaccine movement and anti-vaccine fake news

Anti-vaccine fake news have been circulating on social media platforms before the vaccination program started. Many less educated individuals are refusing to take the vaccination due to the questions about religious status of the vaccines,[296] it being a Jewish agenda[297] or due to fears of the side effects.[298][299][300] Some claim it to be up to them to vaccinate themselves or their family while influencing others to do so.[301] The government has taken action against those that spread anti-vaccine fake news.[302][303][304][305][excessive citations]The Federal Territories mufti also clarified that the vaccines are halal and obligatory to clear the air and encourage Muslims who are still unsure about the halal status of the vaccine to be inoculated.[306]

On 2 June 2021, a teacher became the first person to be charged over fake vaccine news under a new emergency ordinance, the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021, which came into effect on 11 March 2021.[307] A doctor was fined RM5000 for spreading fake news about the Sinovac vaccine on 26 June 2021.[308]

Anti-vaxxers have also been contributing to the issue of the sales of fake vaccination certificates, even offering up to RM1000, as the government relaxes restrictions for those who have certified fully vaccinated, although many vaccine centres, including private ones have rejected such offers.[309] Some “anti-vaxxers” have also been reported to show up for their vaccine appointment, offering bribes to get their vaccination certificate forged without actually taking the jab. These individuals approach the doctors and boast that they are willing to pay to get the certificates without getting the jabs. They will come and whisper to the medical personnel at the vaccination centres and ask them to pretend to administer the vaccine. However, the numbers of those who wish to do so were very small as most people understand the damage COVID-19 can wreak and want to be protected.[310]

On 24 August, an anti-vaccine couple were arrested for attempting a “social experiment” by entering shops despite not being fully vaccinated and boasting about it on social media after the government had relaxed restrictions for the fully vaccinated.[311][312] Many netizens were disturbed about the user’s post on Facebook, which has since been deleted but reposted as screenshots by other users several other social media sites,[313] where they mentioned about how they were able to go to restaurants and convenient stores that did not ask for their vaccine certificates, boasting about how easy it was to get away with it despite not having a “vaccine passport”. The user however mentioned that her husband was refused entry into a barber, but was able to enter another, saying that the former barber had too much money and that they will patronise the latter instead. They also mentioned how they confidently entered a crowded restaurant after family bicycle ride, along with photos of the couple and their two children dining-in at the restaurant. Many users criticised the user for lying and the shopowners for not checking their certificates.[314][315] The couple were also identified by netizens to be from Klang, Selangor.[313]

While vaccine hesitancy was high during the initial rollout of the vaccine, lockdown fatigue, new COVID-19 variants, better vaccine education and outreach along with the increasing infection rate and death rate has encouraged many, particularly those from urban populations, to be vaccinated and it has been reflected on the country hitting vaccination targets early. As of the of end August 2021, about 57% of the total population have received at least one dose and 41% have been fully inoculated.

On 6 September it was reported that a housewife was fined RM12,000 for sharing misinformation videos about vaccines in Kuala Lumpur.[316]

On 9 October, a now deleted viral video message on Twitter which contained a list of 41 school teachers who have died due to the COVID-19 vaccine.[317] The police and health ministry has since dismissed the fake news and launched an investigation against the owner of the Twitter account under Section 500 of the Penal Code, Section 505 (c) of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.[318][319] Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin also took to his official Twitter account to call out the owner of the Twitter account.[320][317][321][322] As his source, the twitter user cites an anti-vaccine Telegram group called ‘AEFI CASES – Covid Vaccines’ — the same group that recently spread false information about local singer Fitri Haris’s wife, Fazilah Omar.[321]


Anti-vaccine movement getting louder, angrier: Legal expert

Published on: Friday, October 08, 2021

By: Bernama

Kuala Lumpur: As Malaysia inches closer towards its goal of vaccinating 80 per cent of its entire population against Covid-19, the indignant gasps of the anti-vaccine movement in the country are getting louder and angrier.

The vehicle for their anger? The courts.

Since the government has required vaccine holdouts working in the civil service to get jabbed against Covid-19 or risk disciplinary action, some anti-vaxxers are arguing it is a violation of their constitutional rights to life and liberty, that is, the freedom to make their own medical choices. A soldier, who was dismissed for insubordination in August for refusing to be vaccinated, is currently suing the Royal Malaysian Armed Forces, claiming discrimination.

But what many are failing to understand is that the freedom to choose not to be vaccinated does not mean freedom from consequences, say experts.

Legal expert Prof Dr Haidar Dziyauddin told Bernama anti-vaxxers need to realise they are living in a society, which requires them to act responsibly towards the community.

“They have the right to choose. And if they have chosen not to be vaccinated, they must understand that they are not living alone. They are living with others. They have to communicate, have to interact with others.

“If they choose not to be vaccinated and they argue that it’s their personal right, they have to remember others also have (their) rights as well,” he said. 

Epidemiologist Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar agreed, saying only those with severe medical conditions should be exempted from the vaccine mandates.

“But if you really have no reason and you just don’t want (the vaccine), I think you have to accept being isolated and deprived of the (vaccine passport freedom) we have now,” he said.

Almost 17,000 civil servants had not registered for the vaccine as of Sept 30. As of Oct 5, over 1.3 million adults in Malaysia have not received their shot, most of whom have not registered either.

Misinformation by anti-vaxxers is likely responsible for the hesitance. Doctors also suspect their influence in many areas in Malaysia because most of the younger people who end up in hospitals, such as Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah in Klang, for moderate or severe cases are unvaccinated despite the availability of vaccines.



The anti vaccine challenge

By Ivanpal Singh Grewal

Tuesday, 15 Feb 2022

People opposed to vaccines do not like to be called anti-vaxxers. They find it a pejorative term, and rightly so. It is not meant to uplift but a reflection of misinformation and deception.

…vaccine hesitancy is not a new thing. Even in Malaysia, we must grapple with parents who do not want to vaccinate their children, with some quarters calling for paediatric vaccinations to be made compulsory.

The anti-vax movement, precipitated by the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccines, in Malaysia has grown more mainstream with more and more people taking it mainstream, and they have not shied away from sharing their views.

Many Malaysians who have experienced side effects from the vaccines who claim that they have not received a complete response from the health authorities have transformed into vaccine sceptics.

Some are openly sharing their side-effects and claiming that the vaccines are not safe and causing others around them to second guess the efficacy of the vaccine programme to end the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also, with the deluge of information available on the Internet, some of us are transformed into vaccine experts. Vaccine development is a very complex and specialised process, and it is harmful to those of us not involved in the development of vaccines to claim we know enough to claim it is unsafe.

All of this forces us to ask ourselves: do anti-vaxers pose a challenge to ending the global pandemic?

The short answer is yes because of the spread of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. For example, the claim that Reuters only fact-checks anti-vaccine literature because it has links with Pfizer even though the link is tenuous and contrived, militates against vaccines achieving their full potential to end this pandemic.

There is no other way out of the pandemic than vaccines. Even though the genesis of new Covid-19 variants leads to breakthrough infections (BTI), i.e., infecting those who have been fully vaccinated from Covid-19, the symptoms of BTI are milder, and the death rates are lower as well. The data is clear, but anti-vaxers ignore it because it does not fit into their “vaccines are bad” narrative.

Further, governments must be muscular and reactive when dealing with anti-vaxxers because the continued stream of disinformation leads to more and more people who have no negative views about vaccines being taken in by it and ultimately avoiding vaccination. Such actions will prolong the pandemic and complicate the recovery.

While I do not think vaccine mandates are the answer, I believe more must be done to counter this anti-vax narrative because failure to do so will lead to more and more people believing that Covid-19 vaccinations are part of some large conspiracy to control the world.

I have been doing my part, and I hope more of us will do so.

As I said to myself when I took my Covid-19 vaccine in May 2020 when everyone was shying away from the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, it was my “humanity moment”, and I believe it is the “humanity moment” of all of us to do our part to ensure Covid-19 does not continue its mean streak and cause more irreparable damage to our lives.

Anti-vaxxers are a challenge for all of us.


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