India: 2,000 people fall prey to fake COVID-19 vaccination drives in Mumbai

In this April 26, 2021, file photo, people line up for the coronavirus vaccine in Mumbai, India. Image Credit: AP

Mumbai: More than 2,000 people have fallen victim to fake COVID-19 vaccination camps in Mumbai so far, the Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Thursday.

The state government’s counsel, chief public prosecutor Deepak Thakare told the court that at least nine fake camps had been held in the city till now, and four separate FIRs registered in this connection.

The state government also submitted before a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni, a status report on the ongoing probe.

The state also said that the police had recorded the statements of 400 witnesses so far and the investigators were in the process of finding the whereabouts of a doctor, who was an accused in the incident that took place at a housing society in suburban Kandivali, where one such camp was held.

“At least 2,053 people fell victim to these fake vaccination camps. Four FIRs have been registered in relation to these camps. While some accused persons have been identified, several unknown persons, too, have been booked in these FIRs,” Thakare said.

While the bench accepted the state’s report, it said that the state and municipal authorities must, in the meanwhile, take measures to get the victims tested for any ill-effects caused by fake vaccines.

“Our anxiety is, what happens to these people who were vaccinated? What were they administered and what is the effect of this fake vaccine?” the court asked, questioning the contents of the fake vaccines.

The bench also took exception to the fact that the state government was yet to come up with specific guidelines for vaccination camps organised by private housing societies, offices, etc., despite an order of the court passed earlier this month.

“This is very very urgent. We had expected the state would come up with SOPs immediately. Time is of essence here, you (state) can’t delay,” the court said.

The bench also asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to inform the court about what it proposed to do to check the adverse effects on the health of victims of the nine fake vaccination camps.

To this, the BMC’s counsel, senior advocate Anil Sakhre said the civic body was also conducting its own probe into the incidents.

“We have realised that vaccination certificates were not given to the victims on the same day that they were administered the fake vaccines. Later, certificates were issued using the names of three different hospitals. That is how people realised something was wrong,” Sakhre said.

“These hospitals, however, said they had not provided the vials used in these camps. We have also written to the Serum Institute of India,” he said.

The high court has directed the BMC and the state government to file their affidavits responding to the court’s queries and directions by June 29, the next date of hearing.