The Centre has asked states to initiate penal action against those spreading “unfounded and misleading” rumours regarding the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines that are being administered in the country.
In a letter to all states and Union territories, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said that even though Covshield, produced by Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin have been approved for emergency use after being found safe and immunogenic by the drug regulator, rumours on their efficacy are creating a negative notion against them among people.
“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, in the social and other media, creating doubt about the safety and efficacy of these vaccines. 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 letter read.
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Bhalla asked states and UTs to devise appropriate mechanism to curb such rumour mongering, create awareness on the vaccines and penalize those spreading fake news under the Disaster Management Act and the Indian Penal Code.
“I would urge you to put in place an appropriate mechanism to check the spread of such ill-informed rumours, and direct all the concerned authorities under the state government to take appropriate necessary measures to counter the spread of all such kind of false information about the COVID-19 vaccines as well as promptly disseminate factual messages. Further, penal action may be taken against the person/s of organization/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.
The Centre on January 16 rolled out its mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19, aiming to inoculate healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase.
Many including doctors have refused to be administered with Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, as it is yet to complete its Phase 3 trials.