New Delhi (NVI): The Centre has directed States and Union Territories to take penal action against those indulging in spreading rumours on the efficacy of two coronavirus vaccines approved in the country for mass immunization to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a letter sent to all States and Union Territories last week, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has said that states must come out with a mechanism to deal with such misinformation and take penal action under Disaster Management Act and the Indian Penal Code against those spreading rumours about the effectiveness of Covaxin and Covishield vaccines.
“I would like to strongly emphasize 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, in social and other media, creating doubt about the safety and efficacy of these vaccines,” Bhalla said in his letter.
The letter, which was issued on January 19, further added, “Such kind of rumour mongering, particularity 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 related to the efficacy and immunogenicity of the vaccines.”
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.
The Centre launched the coronavirus vaccination drive on January 16 after DCGI granted emergency use approval to two vaccines – Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Covishield, which was developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and is being manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and senior doctors from across the country have stressed that both vaccines are safe and effective.
India’s vaccination drive is currently in the first phase, in which more than 16 lakh healthcare staff has been administered coronavirus vaccine so far.