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More Covid-19 vaccines administered than procured? RTI reply bares Modi claim

By Rosamma Thomas* 

The Narendra Modi government has done it before – data has been doctored or suppressed when it would have reflected poorly on India’s governance. Ahead of voting in the 2019 general elections, data about unemployment, which had reached a 45-year high, was suppressed. It was then released officially, once elections were over.
Prime Minister Modi is not renowned as an expert with numbers – he reportedly committed faux pas at Davos in 2018, that 600 crore voters had voted for him, when the total population of India is only 130 crore, with 80 crore registered voters.
Now, it appears that even the websites that the Government of India (GoI) operates may have lost the ability to count accurately – while the Cowin website that records the number of doses of Covid-19 vaccines administered in the country showed that 200 crore Covid vaccinations were administered by July 17, 2022.
In response to a Right to Information application from Rajiv Lather, HLL Lifecare Limited, the nodal government agency responsible for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, said on August 26, 2022 that only 176.47 crore doses of vaccine had been procured by July 26, 2022.
On March 22, 2022 "The Free Press Journal" reported that the protocol for disposal of vaccine stocks that had expired was not clear – lakhs of doses were set to expire, and it as yet not clear what process of disposal would be followed.
It appears that the websites that the Government of India operates may have lost the ability to count accurately
In February 2022, WHO criticized richer nations that were dumping close-to-expiry-date vaccines on poor nations. By April 2022 Serum Institute of India announced that it would halt manufacture of vaccines as it had built up large stocks as there was a global glut and 200 million doses remained unused.
By August 2021, there were already questions raised about the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was sold by the name Covishield in India. By late 2021, South Africa, which had earlier ordered this vaccine, had stopped using it since data emerged casting doubts on its effectiveness. As the vaccine demand waned, by October 2022 AstraZeneca announced that it would focus more on drugs for respiratory infections and to treat cancer.
Globally, there are now calls to punish those who were responsible for compelling people to get the vaccine. Vaccine uptake in India too has plunged, even though the Cowin dashboard shows every day thousands of people continue to be vaccinated, and the numbers keep rising, with little clarity on the vaccination doses procured and used.
Rajiv Lather, who uncovered this information, questions if no wasteage occurred during transport or in storage. Besides, some doses were also exported to other nations as “grant”. So how is the government claiming that it has administered so many doses in addition to what HLL claims it has procured?
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*Freelance journalist. Click here for RTI reply

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