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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Covid-19 vaccination: ‘Fully vaccinated’ SMSes precede second dose for many in Gujarat

However, state immunisation officer Nayan Jani attributed it to "human error in data entry in one or two cases of the lakhs of doses administered each day.

Written by Aditi Raja , Sohini Ghosh | Ahmedabad, Vadodara |
Updated: October 30, 2021 11:44:25 pm
People wait in line for Covid-19 Vaccination at a vaccination centre in Dariyapur, Old city, Ahmedabad. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Vadodara resident Parvati Rajput, undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, has not stepped out of her house in a few weeks. She knows her second Covid-19 vaccine is due but has been resting after a chemo session. Last week, she received an SMS, purportedly from the automated system of the CoWIN website, congratulating her for “successfully completing the schedule of all doses of the Covid19 vaccine”, along with the link to download the final certificate of vaccination from the CoWIN website.

A shocked Rajput thought someone had impersonated her and taken a vaccine. “When I called up some acquaintances, whom I thought would be in the know of this, I learned that it was happening everywhere. I approached the authorities the next day and they told me they will administer the vaccine. But I cannot take a vaccine until February due to the ongoing cancer treatment. A friend’s family has had three such second dose certificates generated and they are happy that they do not have to even take a second dose now. My question is, why should the certificate be generated first? Is it to allow some people to escape the dose or for the authorities to pile up numbers to show that they have finished vaccinating the population?” Rajput asks.

In another instance, an Anand-resident, who requested to remain anonymous, received two SMSes on October 15, congratulating him and his wife for “successfully” taking the second dose. The catch — both of them, although due for the second dose, had not taken it. “I was surprised and went to the PHC. The staff there asked if I’d taken the appointment for the second dose. I told them “no”. They probably knew this was the practise because they immediately asked me to take the second dose and I did,” he says.

His wife and daughter, who had taken the first dose at the Anand PHC, are, however, residing in a south Indian state. “I received a call from a PHC official
enquiring about my daughter’s second dose. I told them she is not in Anand and will take the second dose when she is back. The official told me that she could take the second dose whenever she has time but for now it will reflect in the system that she has taken the second dose. On October 16, I received the SMS saying she had taken the second dose and issued the certificate,” he says.

This meant that the second doses for all the three members of his family were false numbers in the database. “It is a matter of concern if you are vaccinating by issuing fake SMSes and certificates to show the targets have been met. It appears there is pressure on the junior-level health staff to show numbers. My bigger worry is if you have not given the vaccine dose and you are claiming it has been given, then what happens to those doses, say the one for my wife and daughter? It can be sold to private parties and it can become a scam,” he points out.

Anand CDHO MK Chhari remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.

However, state immunisation officer Nayan Jani attributed it to “human error in data entry in one or two cases of the lakhs of doses administered each day.” A beneficiary always has the option “of raising a grievance through email or WhatsApp on the CoWIN portal.” “There is no intentional wrongdoing. It is a thorough system. There will be serious actions if anyone is found to be doing this intentionally,” said Jani.

The Medical Officer for Health of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), Dr Devesh Patel, told this newspaper that “no reason” could be attributed to the generation of the certificates. “We cannot point out any specific reason why the certificates are being generated or if it is a technical error. It does happen sometimes. People come to the centres when it happens and we make sure that they receive their dose,” Patel said.

Two weeks back, another Vadodara resident Dhruvisha Veer got a similar SMS saying she had received her second dose of the vaccine on October 17 at 6.02 pm. A day later, her mother Jyoti also received her final vaccination certificate along with a congratulatory SMS. “Both of us were yet to take the second dose when the SMSes came. The two SMSes came on consecutive days at the closing time of the vaccine centres. This makes us believe that the staff generates these messages to show that they have met targets for the day. They were cooperative and gave us the doses when we went to the centre as mentioned in the certificate, but why should a certificate be generated without the person having actually taken the dose? They did not have any answers to that,” Dhruvisha says.


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