Malaysia's anti-vaxxers are fishing for fake digital certificates

A Facebook post of a clinic in Gelugor, Penang showing a RM1,000 offer for a fake certificate.
A Facebook post of a clinic in Gelugor, Penang showing a RM1,000 offer for a fake certificate. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The digital vaccination certificate has become a hot "commodity" in Malaysia, as the fully vaccinated are allowed greater liberties and social perks.

As doors remain shut to the unvaccinated, some unscrupulous individuals have made attempts to lie about their vaccination status with fraudulent certificates.

Private clinics and general practitioners say they have been getting inquiries from those who are unvaccinated, with some offering up to RM1,000 (S$320), to fake their vaccination status.

Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia president Dr Steven Chow said members reported getting phone calls asking them to falsify vaccine certificates with offers of up to RM1,000 per certificate.

"They are not necessarily anti-vaxxers. They may be people who need to travel urgently," Dr Chow said.

"But the cost of the actual unsubsidised self-paying vaccination in a private clinic is RM350 and to offer RM1,000 for a fake document is suspicious. The authority should investigate and act early."

Any document, said Dr Chow, or a certificate signed by a registered medical practitioner has a serious legal responsibility attached.

"Our advice to doctors is never be a party. The best is to turn them away on the spot... Everyone should go for proper vaccination via the proper channel to protect themselves," he said.

ProtectHealth Corporation chief executive officer Dr Anas Alam Faizli revealed that there had been isolated cases where anti-vaxxers had gone to the vaccination centre (PPV) but refused to roll up their sleeves.

"They only wanted to be recorded as having received their vaccination. PPV is where vaccines are given, not where documents are forged. Such an attitude will not be entertained," he said.

Dr Anas Alam noted that there was a proper process, workflow and standard operating procedure observed at the PPV to ensure that only a person who is vaccinated will get their information recorded.

Recently, the police have also started investigations into the alleged sale of fake digital vaccination certificates, which was highlighted on social media.

"Yes we have had our share of people who only want the vaccination certificates," said Malaysia Medical Practitioners Coalition Association president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah.

To prevent legitimate certificates from being forged or stolen, he told people not to share pictures of their certificate on social media.

He also advised staff members at premises to scan the code on the certificate to verify its authenticity.

General practitioner Dr Arisman Wenge Abdul Rahman said some of his medical colleagues had been approached to falsify people's vaccination status.

"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," he said, adding that he had not heard of any staff member taking up such an offer to date.

Dr Arisman stressed that the government's allowance of certain activities for those fully vaccinated was not a form of discrimination.

"The aim is to reduce the risk of transmission among those who have yet to receive their vaccinations. Moreover, we hope allowing more freedom for the fully vaccinated will encourage those who are hesitant to receive the vaccine. We want everyone in Malaysia to be protected," he said.

Dr Khairul Hafidz Alkhair Khairul Amin, the handler of Twitter account MedTweetMY, said falsifying one's vaccination status was an unethical action.

"If people do not want to receive the vaccine, that is their right, but they must understand that it is the right of others to be protected," he said.

"If there are unvaccinated people who are carriers of the virus and they go to premises to dine in, they risk spreading the virus to others who are there."

Federal police CID director Commissioner Datuk Seri Abdul Jalil Hassan warned the public against getting involved in any activity connected to forging digital vaccination certificates because it is a serious offence.

The director for Criminal Investigations at Malaysia's Bukit Aman police headquarters said the offence would be investigated under Section 22(d) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act for giving false information.

This offence is punishable with a maximum seven-year jail term and RM100,000 fine.

"Forging such certificates is a serious offence. The police are monitoring the situation closely," he said, advising those with information on fake digital vaccination certificates to contact the police immediately.