The Union Health Ministry has asked the West Bengal government to inquire into instances of COVID-19 vaccination camps being organised allegedly by unauthorised people in some areas of Kolkata and submit a report in the next two days.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written to Hari Krishna Dwivedi, Chief Secretary of West Bengal, on June 29, seeking a factual report on the matter.
Bhushan referred to a letter written to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan by Suvendu Adhikari, Leader of Opposition in West Bengal Assembly, on June 25 in which attention has been drawn to instances of COVID-19 vaccination camps being organised allegedly by unauthorised people.
It is also pointed out that in some of these camps, and notably in Kasba locality of the Kolkata Municipal area, none of the beneficiaries have received any vaccination certificates generated from Co-WIN, giving rise to apprehensions about the genuineness of these vaccination camps, Bhushan said in his letter.
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He said as per the guidelines, all vaccination sessions for COVID-19 have to be organised through the Co-WIN portal and all vaccinations have to be recorded on Co-WIN too.
Also, vaccination certificates are generated from Co-WIN after the vaccination events are successfully recorded by the vaccinators and these certificates are then given to the beneficiaries in digital or physical form, he said in the letter.
The Centre has also advised states from time to time that vaccination certificates must be issued to beneficiaries.
"Non-issuance of these certificates, therefore, does lead to an apprehension of 'fake' vaccination camps and also raises doubts on contents of injections delivered in such camps.
"Such instances, if not promptly enquired into and suitably addressed, may also lead to the possibility of their recurrence," Bhushan said.
"It is requested that the matter may be urgently enquired into and the factual position about the serious allegations raised in the letter referred to above, clarified immediately and that, suitable and strict action may be taken in the matter, if necessary. It is also requested that a factual report on the matter may be sent to this ministry in the next two days," he said.
Referring to news reports regarding allegedly "fake" Covid vaccination sessions in some states, the health ministry had on June 25 written to all states and UTs requesting them to issue suitable instructions to field officers to monitor vaccination sessions being organised for workplaces or near-to-home, especially by the Private CVCs, to ensure that all such sessions are planned and created on Co-WIN and also all the vaccine doses administered therein are recorded in Co-WIN.
"As you are aware, any outreach COVID-19 vaccination sessions, either in workplaces (both public & private) or in housing societies, slums, etc., can only be organised by the COVID Vaccination Centers (CVCS) registered on Co-WIN.
"It is also mandated under the guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination that, all vaccinations sessions, including the outreach sessions, have to be created on Co-WIN and all vaccine doses administered in such outreach sessions, also are to be mandatorily recorded on Co-WIN," the ministry had said.
"It is also requested that, wherever any instances of alleged irregularities are noticed, these must be promptly investigated and suitable action must also be taken," the ministry had said in the letter.
Adhikari, in his letter to Vardhan dated June 25, said that while states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are scaling new records daily towards vaccination, West Bengal is failing to catch up largely due to lack of enthusiasm from the present state government.
"In certain places, political affiliation is also being looked into by ruling party before allowing the vaccines to be administered to eligible priority population even. Vaccination coupons are also being reportedly issued by the ruling party like a voter slip. But, over the last 48 hours, an even more alarming incident has come to the fore," he said.
He said one Debanjan Deb impersonating as an IAS officer working as Joint Commissioner of Kolkata Municipal Corporation has been holding illegal 'vaccination camps' in Ward No 107 of Kasba right in the heart of Kolkata under the banner of KMC.
"While copies of Aadhaar cards were procured from the recipients in Kasba, none of them received any certificate of vaccination. All these happened under the watch of local administration including police and civic authorities.
"The big question is- Were these shots really Covishield vaccines as being claimed by the accused? If so, then this raises a big question on pilferage of COVID vaccines from government stock and this cannot happen without the complicity of top civic authorities.
"If these were not COVID vaccines, then immediate investigation needs to be done as to what was being administered at such a large scale? Whether they were any toxic drugs or measles vaccines or just plain water needs to be found out," he said.
A thorough investigation needs to be done, prioritising public health and safety, he said.
While Kolkata Police has reportedly started investigating the fraud, several incriminating photos suggestive of the accused's influence in the ruling party of West Bengal have come to the fore, Adhikari alleged.
Public health frauds like this in midst of a raging global pandemic are making common people skeptical of the authenticity of the vaccination process, thereby adding to vaccine hesitancy which is detrimental to the interests of the human race, the letter addressed to Vardhan stated.
The BJP leader from West Bengal urged the Centre to order a thorough investigation by central agencies into this vaccination fraud and punish the guilty.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.