The picture of Pfizer vaccines sold online is ‘fake’ – Malaysia prohibits the sale of Covid-19 vaccines

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A picture has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook and Twitter alongside a claim that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccines are sold on popular e-shopping platform Shopee in Malaysia. The claim is false; Shopee says the photo is “fake” and Covid-19 vaccines have never been listed on its platform. The Malaysian Health Ministry says only the government can supply Covid-19 vaccines and the sale of Covid-19 vaccines is prohibited. 

The picture was published on Facebook here on March 5, 2021. 

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on March 10, 2021

The Malaysian-language caption reads: “People say Pfizer is for frontliner, plebeians get sinovac. But wrong, shopee brings the vaccine of choice for many straight to your front door. Rm6+.++ only. Needles buy separately, jab (do) yourself. Thanks shopi.”

According to the photo of the purported sale post, the Pfizer vaccine is priced at 63.88 Malaysian ringgit, or $15.50, and 17 items have been sold. 

Shopee is a Singapore-based e-commerce platform that is popular in the Southeast Asian region.

The same picture has been shared more than 230 times after appearing alongside a similar claim here and here on Facebook and here on Twitter. 

The claim, however, is false.

Shopee denial

In response to AFP’s query, Shopee issued a statement through email on March 11, 2021. It is titled: “DOCTORED IMAGE PURPORTING TO SELL COVID-19 VACCINE ON SHOPEE.”

The statement says: “It has come to our attention that a tweet with a photo showing the sale of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine on Shopee is being circulated on Twitter and the same photo is also being circulated on WhatsApp. We can confirm that we have not found any similar listings on Shopee. 

“The author of the tweet has since confirmed that the image was doctored and indeed fake. 

“Covid-19 immunization is a national health matter that should not be trivialized. 

“The Malaysian Ministry of Health (MOH), the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), as well as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) are also aware of this fake news.”

A keyword search for vaccine, in English and in Malaysian, on Shopee does not yield any results.

Health Ministry advisory

Malaysia’s Ministry of Health uploaded the picture, stamped with words “FAKE NEWS” and “FAKE” here on its official Facebook page on March 5, 2021. The caption partly says: “This advertisement is false. It is prohibited to sell COVID-19 vaccines in Malaysia.”

The ministry also posted this on its official Twitter account on the same day, saying: “The #COVID19 vaccine can only be supplied by the Ministry of Health Malaysia.

“The sale or supply of vaccines through any other medium is not permitted at all.

“Vaccines sold on the market may be counterfeits, fakes or come from illegitimate sources.”

Original Pfizer vaccine photo

A reverse image search on Google found that the vaccine picture used in the purported Shopee listing was taken from a Reuters photo

The Reuters photo’s caption reads: “Vials with a sticker reading, ‘COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only’ and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020.”

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo from the misleading post (L) and the Reuters photo (R):

Screenshot comparison of the photo from the misleading listing (L) and the Reuters photo (R)