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Fake Covishield found in Kolkata, WHO concerned

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it found fake Covishield vaccines in Kolkata, the latest instance of criminals trying to take advantage of the high demand for covid jabs in India.

“Falsified Covishield was found from Kolkata, India, at the patient level. This means medical products are available, supplied, dispensed or administered directly to patients,” said Tarik Jašarević, spokesperson for WHO.

“We do not disclose sources of reporting to the WHO Global Surveillance & Monitoring System (GSMS) for substandard/falsified medical products,” he said.

Officials of the global public health agency have informed the Union health ministry, the nodal ministry handling covid-19 vaccines procurement.

Police in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata have already arrested dozens of people accused of supplying counterfeit shots. The growing number of fake vaccine alerts points to the scale of the problem and is increasingly becoming a worry for health authorities.

The WHO has issued a medical product alert referring to falsified Covishield vaccines in Southeast Asia and Africa. The global public health agency said that the products were reported to it in July and August. Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd, the manufacturer of Covishield, confirmed that the vaccine vials reported at the patient level were falsified, the WHO said.

Following this, the health agency urged India to increase vigilance in the country.

The products identified are confirmed as “falsified” because they deliberately or fraudulently misrepresent their identity, composition or source.

“We have reached out to the West Bengal government and alerted them on the matter. We have also spoken to the Serum Institute of India to find out more on the issue. Circulation of falsified Covishield is unfortunate, and the matter is under scrutiny,” said a senior official in the Union health ministry.