KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 – Police have uncovered a new level of Covid-19 vaccination fraud in Malaysia after finding that a private clinic in Gombak had issued legitimate digital vaccination certificates to people without jabbing them by throwing away vaccines instead.
Berita Harian reported that seven individuals, including the owner of the private clinic, were arrested last week in a raid.
Selangor police chief Arjunaidi Mohamed reportedly said yesterday that the clinic was suspected of charging vaccine-hesitant people RM500 to get their Covid-19 vaccine certification on the MySejahtera app without injecting them.
Instead, the clinic – which was authorised by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to administer coronavirus vaccination – allegedly threw away these vaccines and returned the vaccine vials with broken seals to MOH as proof that the shots were administered.
“Checks on confiscated laptops showed 5,601 patients have been registered as vaccine recipients in the MySejahtera system. Further investigations are underway to identify the number of people who were registered without receiving their jabs,” Arjunaidi was quoted telling a press conference at the Selangor contingent police headquarters in Shah Alam yesterday.
He also reportedly said at the early stage three months ago, the clinic allegedly charged people RM3,000 to get their Covid-19 vaccine certificate without receiving their shots, but reduced prices to RM500 amid competition from other clinics.
Police raided the Gombak clinic based on viral WhatsApp messages of its illegal service.
“Police are now tracking other clinics that are also issuing digital vaccine certificates without injections. The case is being investigated under Section 269 of the Penal Code and Section 22(d) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342).”
Section 269 of the Penal Code imposes up to six months’ imprisonment, a fine, or both for those convicted of a negligent act that is likely to spread infection of any disease dangerous to life.
Section 22(d) of Act 342 criminalises the act of obstructing authorised officers in the execution of their duty, refusal to furnish information required, or giving false information.
It is unclear how the authorities or MOH will be able to identify who exactly of the 5,601 vaccine recipients registered on MySejahtera by the clinic did not actually receive their jabs.
In clinics, vaccines are usually administered by the doctor alone with the patient in the examination room. There are no CCTVs in clinics’ examination rooms.
It is also unclear if acts of certifying people for Covid-19 vaccination on MySejahtera without actually inoculating them only began recently during the booster programme, or much earlier during the primary vaccine rollout.
The government has boasted of the integrity of digital Covid-19 vaccine certs on MySejahtera that it says cannot be forged due to blockchain technology. According to official statistics, 94.5 per cent of the total population in the Klang Valley have been fully vaccinated.
Previously, police arrested a doctor in Marang, Terengganu, for selling fake printed Covid-19 vaccination certificates at between RM400 and RM600 each. Terengganu police reportedly said the private clinic in Marang had sold about 1,900 of these fraudulent documents.
The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), the largest group of doctors, said ProtectHealth Corporation does random audits on participating clinics in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK).
“From the looks of it, the recently reported cases of fake vaccine certification with no vaccine given is an integrity issue as the system for private PPVs to provide vaccinations has sufficient strict protocols to ensure accountability of the vaccines,” MMA president Dr Koh Kar Chai told CodeBlue.
“Medical practitioners are also liable for any wrongdoing in their practice. MMA once again urges the relevant authorities to go all out in their investigations to weed out those involved in the issuing of fake vaccine certificates without vaccination. For registered practitioners, their licence to practice can be revoked by the Malaysian Medical Council. The Private Facility Enforcement Unit at MOH should also take other stern measures such as immediate closure of their premises and charge those found to be involved, in court.”
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s aide told the press that the minister would address the Gombak case in a press conference on Thursday.
ProtectHealth, which manages the participation of private medical practitioners in PICK, has administered 73 per cent of some 9.3 million booster shots as of January 16. As of January 12, ProtectHealth has administered nearly 30 million doses as a whole, or half of the vaccine doses given under PICK.
Update: The article was updated with comments by the MMA president and Khairy Jamaluddin’s aide.