The Centre has asked states to take penal action against those “spreading rumours” about the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines currently being administered in India.
In a letter to all states and Union territories last week, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla 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 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 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,” Bhalla wrote.
The government launched the COVID-19 inoculation drive from January 16.
Stressing that the government is taking all necessary steps to ensure that the vaccination drive is successful and “the pandemic is eventually eradicated”, Bhalla’s letter said, “I would urge you (states) 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.”