In a letter to chief secretaries of all states and Union territories, the Centre said that corrective action must be taken against those spreading "unfounded and misleading rumours" about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines – Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and SII’s Covishield – being used in the country, NDTV reports.
The letter was in reference to the “rumour-mongering, particularly by vested interests", and refuted the claims against the COVID-19 vaccines stating they were found to be "safe and immunogenic" and the spread of these rumours would cause "unwarranted doubts among people at large".
The Centre emphasised the need to “put in place an appropriate mechanism to check the spread of such ill-informed rumours”.
Written by Union Health Minister Ajay Bhalla last week, the letter reiterated existing provisions under the Disaster Management Act and the Indian Penal Code and urged States to counter disinformation.
"“Further, penal action may be taken against the person/s or or organisation/s, who is/are found to have indulged in such activities, under the relevant provisions of of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860.”"
The national coronavirus drive began on 16 January after the COVID-19 vaccines were given emergency approval.
VG Somani, the DCGI (Drug Controller General of India), who approved the vaccines after Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India presented trial data to a panel of experts, according to NDTV.
However, the approval of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin was met with flak as critics pointed out the lack of data available in the final phase of trials, which is typically expected to reveal the vaccine’s efficacy.
The report added that the Centre defended its decision on the grounds that enough evidence was available regarding the vaccine’s safety and immunogenicity and those receiving the vaccine would do so in “clinical trial mode”, ie, they would have to sign consent forms.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, and other senior officials and doctors have stressed upon the safety and efficacy of both vaccines.
In another report by NDTV, Bharat Biotech Chairman Dr Krishna Ella spoke against the scrutiny and doubt, stating his company has global experience and has prioritised the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.
India’s vaccination drive is in its first phase, with around one crore healthcare staff and two crore frontline workers expected to receive the shots. This will be followed by the vaccination of those over the age of 50 and those with serious illnesses – a number expected to be around 27 crore.
The prime minister and other officials will be expected to receive their vaccination during this period.
According to the Health Ministry, more than 19.5 lakh healthcare workers have been vaccinated across the country, including the vaccination of 3,34,679 beneficiaries till 7.10 pm as of Monday.
(With inputs from NDTV)
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