A medical staff member shows a bottle of Sinovac's Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine on a mobile vaccine truck in Kuala Lumpur on June 21, 2021. ( AFP / Mohd RASFAN)

Posts mislead that different vaccines were offered to Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia

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A photo of a Malaysian newspaper article has been shared widely on Facebook and Twitter alongside a claim that a Malaysian minister said Muslims and non-Muslims would be given different brands of Covid-19 vaccines. The claim is misleading: the Malaysian newspaper issued a correction after it published an erroneous paragraph about Malaysia's Covid-19 vaccine rollout. The Malaysian minister has denied claims that Muslims and non-Muslims have been offered different brands of Covid-19 vaccine.

The image was published on Facebook here on June 25, 2021. It has been shared more than 100 times.

It shows a newspaper report that quotes Khairy Jamaluddin, the Malaysian coordinating minister for Covid-19 immunisation. He is also the minister for science and technology.

In the photo, a paragraph circled in yellow reads: “He claims that Muslims are given the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine while non-Muslims are given the Sinovac vaccine.”

The post’s caption states: “Just received this info through our Makkal Kural WhatsApp group.

“My question to the health minister khairy Why there is differential vaccine for non-muslims & Muslims?

“I hope there is good explanation for this differential matter from the Health Minister.”

Screenshot of the misleading post taken on July 2, 2021

As of July 7, 2021, the Malaysian government is administering Covid-19 vaccines developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, US multinational company Pfizer and UK pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca to its citizens.

The image was also shared with a similar claim on Facebook here and here, and on Twitter here and here.

The claim, however, is misleading.

Corrected report

The print edition of the article, headlined “Vax rollout to be revved up,” was published by Malaysian newspaper The Star on May 28, 2021. That version was archived here.

The Star later published a correction of the article on May 28, 2021.

The correction's first three paragraphs read: “We refer to the article ‘Vax rollout to be revved up’ on The Star Online.

“In the article, we inadvertently omitted the words ‘strongly denied’ in a quote attributed to National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

“The line should have read ‘He strongly denied claims that Muslims are given the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine while non-Muslims are given the Sinovac vaccine.’”

The Star also updated the article on May 28, 2021. It can be seen here.

The paragraph reads: “He strongly denied claims that Muslims are given the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine while non-Muslims are given the Sinovac vaccine.”

It also carried a correction note at the end of the report.

It reads: “Note: The word ‘denied’ was inadvertently omitted from the prior version of this story. We apologise for the earlier omission.”

Below is a screenshot of the paragraph in the misleading post (L) and the paragraph in the updated The Star article (R):

Screenshot of the paragraph in the misleading post (L) and the paragraph in the updated The Star article (R)

The Star Media Group’s chief content officer Esther Ng Sek Yee told AFP on July 1, 2021: “We have published a correction immediately upon realising the mistake. We were up-front about the error. We urge the people to stop passing this around since there was a retraction, and tell the full story.”

Khairy’s denial about Malaysia's vaccine rollout was reported by Malaysian state news agency Bernama here and the New Straits Times here.

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