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Check vaccine rumours; take penal action against those indulging in such acts: MHA tells states

In a communication to chief secretaries of all states and UTs, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also strongly emphasised that the National Regulatory Authority in the country has found that the two vaccines -- Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, developed and manufactured by the Bharat Biotech Limited -- were safe and immunogenic.

January 25, 2021 / 05:39 PM IST
Representative image: AP

Representative image: AP

Faced with the problem of circulation of rumours about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, the Centre has asked the states to check the spread of such misinformation and advised them to take penal action against those who are found to be involved in dissemination of wrong and ill-informed news.

In a communication to chief secretaries of all states and UTs, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also strongly emphasised that the National Regulatory Authority in the country has found that the two vaccines -- Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, developed and manufactured by the Bharat Biotech Limited -- were safe and immunogenic.

The central government, in close collaboration with the state governments and UT administrations, has launched the inoculation drive of COVID-19 vaccination from January 16 across the country with the two vaccines.

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The Union home secretary said healthcare workers and frontline workers are being inoculated as per the priority decided by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), and subsequently the priority groups 2 and 3 will be vaccinated.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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"I would like to strongly emphasise that the National Regulatory Authority in the country has found both the vaccines safe and immunogenic. However, it has been reported that unfounded and misleading rumours are circulating on social and other media, creating doubt about the safety and efficacy of these vaccines.

"Such kind of rumour mongering, particularly by vested interests, can create unwarranted doubts among people at large, and there is, therefore, a need to check all such kinds of unfounded scare mongering relating to the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccines,” the communication said.

Urging the states and UTs to put in place an appropriate mechanism to check the spread of such ill-informed rumours, Bhalla asked the chief secretaries to direct all the authorities concerned under the state government to take appropriate necessary measures to counter the spread of all such kind of "false information" about COVID-19 vaccines as well as promptly disseminate factual messages.

"Further, penal action may be taken against the person/s or organisation/s who is/ are found to have indulged in such activities, under the relevant provisions of the Disaster Management Act. 2005 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860," he said.

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PTI
first published: Jan 25, 2021 05:39 pm

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