A medical staff member administers a dose of Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine to a woman in Kuala Lumpur on May 31, 2021. ( AFP / Mohd Rasfan)

False graphic shared in misleading posts claiming 'Malaysians should get fourth Covid-19 jab'

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An infographic purportedly issued by Malaysian health authorities has been shared multiple times on social media with a claim that residents should get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine because "the Omicron variant will spread" after Malaysia reopens borders on April 1, 2022. However, the claim is false; the Malaysian Ministry of Health denies issuing the infographic. As of March 25, 2022, the government has not issued any statement about plans for the fourth dose in the country.

The infographic was shared here on Facebook on March 12, 2022.

The Malaysian-language caption translates in part as: "On April 1, 2022, Malaysian citizens will be asked to take a fourth dose for more effective protection."

Malaysian-language text in the infographic translates as: "The Omicron variant will spread as the country opens its borders on April 1, 2022.

"Malaysians are advised to take a fourth dose for more effective protection.

"PICK4 will be implemented starting March 15, 2022."

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on March 24, 2022

"PICK" refers to Malaysia's national immunisation programme, which is currently up to a third dose for most residents, called "PICK-B".

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced in early March 2022 the tourism-reliant country will reopen to all vaccinated travellers starting from April 1.

The move is part of the country's transition towards endemicity and aimed at boosting the economy and reviving Malaysia's ailing tourism sector, Ismail Sabri said.

AFP reported on the developments here.

The infographic has also been shared on Facebook here, here and here with a similar claim.

However, the claim is false.

The Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH) has denied issuing the infographic.

In a Malaysian-language post on its official Facebook page on March 11, 2022, it said: "The MOH would like to inform the public that this infographic is fake and has never been issued by the MOH."

Screenshot of the Malaysian health ministry's Facebook post, taken on March 28, 2022

The Malaysian National Security Council's official Twitter account also issued a press statement from the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia on the same day.

The Malaysian-language tweet translates as: "Fake News Alert. MOH denies publishing an infographic titled 'Take the 4th vaccine shot for more effective protection'."

The press statement translates from Malaysian to English as: "The Ministry of Health has explained that it has never issued the infographic."

"The public is advised to refer to the Ministry of Health official website and social media accounts for the latest verified news," the statement also said.

No plan for fourth dose

A spokesman for Malaysia's Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin referred AFP to comments made by the minister on February 17, 2022, regarding a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

"There are currently no plans for a fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine, the Ministry of Health's focus is on administering the booster doses," Khairy said at the time.

"Most importantly, our response will be based on the latest data," he added.

As of March 25, 2022, the government has not issued any statement about plans to admister the fourth dose.

Official Malaysian government statistics show that more than 65 percent of the country's adult population has received a third Covid-19 jab, reported here by local media.

While many countries are administering third doses, recommendations for a fourth jab are still rare — although Sweden and Israel have done so for some of its residents, including health care workers and the elderly.

A new Israeli study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, meanwhile, has found a fourth dose of existing mRNA Covid-19 vaccines may only have "marginal benefits" for younger, healthy adults, AFP reported.

March 28, 2022 This article was amended to include a screenshot of the Malaysian health ministry's Facebook post saying the infographic was fake