The suspected crooks are believed to have organized at least 12 private mass vaccination sessions in May and June. They did not keep regional health authorities informed when they started the vaccination camps. They are accused of filling empty and used bottles of real vaccine with the saline solution and of administering the injections to anyone who showed up at the events.
Police first registered a case last month after some people who had received the shots became suspicious when they did not see their vaccination certificates appear on the government’s online portal, CoWin. Their suspicion grew when none of the people who witnessed the vaccination events reported any of the usual post-vaccination side effects.
Police arrested 14 people, including doctors, on charges of fraud, criminal conspiracy and other charges. They also sealed off Mumbai’s Shivam Hospital and arrested its owners, Dr Shivraj Pataria and his wife Neeta Pataria, for their alleged role in the vaccination scam.
The hospital was an authorized COVID-19 vaccination center, but it did not have the authorization to organize the mass vaccination camps, which took place in residential areas. They are suspected of having filled vials of used vaccine from the hospital, which should have been destroyed.
” A lot [of the] defendants confessed to using salt water, ”Mumbai co-commissioner Vishwas Nangre Patil told news organizations last week. He explained that other people could be arrested as the investigation was still ongoing.
The Bombay High Court called the apparent vaccination scam “shocking” and called on authorities to ensure that “innocent people are not duped in the future”.
So far, at least 350 million of India’s 1.34 billion have received at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The nationwide immunization program has gathered pace after a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections in April and May, which crippled health services across the country and left people dying on the streets.
The country was reporting more than 400,000 new cases and more than 4,000 deaths per day at the height of the second wave.
Those numbers have fallen to around 40,000 new cases and 900 deaths per day, but with virtually all antiviral restrictions now lifted and the overall proportion of fully vaccinated adults still low, experts are already warning of a possible third wave.