“My mother got vaccinated two days prior, on 15 September, but the vaccination centre refused to update the status on the CoWIN portal the same day,” Pranay Narware, a resident of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, said. “Next day, when my mother contacted them, she was informed that her name has been kept aside for the mahaabhiyan, and hence, asked her to wait till 17th.” On 17 September, India logged a record 2.5 crore COVID-19 vaccinations in a single day under the aegis of a mahaabhiyan, or great campaign, to mark the prime minister Narendra Modi’s birthday. Narware, who accompanied his mother for her second dose, said that he initially thought there must be some problem with the centre’s servers till his mother told him what she had been informed by the centre. When Narware’s mother’s certificate was finally uploaded on the day, instead of the Saraswati Vidya Mandir, in Ayodhya Nagar, where she got her shot, the certificate said “SDM Govindpura.”
While the record vaccinations were celebrated with much fanfare, several citizens have since come forward with reports of discrepancies in their vaccinations, which suggest an attempt to falsely bolster vaccination numbers on the occasion of Modi’s birthday. The Caravan spoke to 13 people across different states who either reported that their vaccinations certificates were issued on 17 September despite getting vaccinated earlier, or that they received vaccination certificates for their second dose that day without actually getting the shot. In several of these cases, the vaccination centre that issued the certificate for the second dose without actually administering the shot was different from the centre where the first shot was given.
Questions were also raised after an investigation by Scroll that quoted several officials in Bihar and found that “while they carried out large-scale vaccinations on September 17, a significant chunk of data uploaded on that day was actually of people vaccinated offline over the previous two days.” Extrapolating this trend, a look at vaccination numbers across the country in the days before and after 17 September also indicate that the numbers on Modi’s birthday may have been misleading. On 16 September, the countrywide vaccinations were around 70 lakh, the next day, the number jumped to 2.5 crore; the day after that there was a sudden drop to 85 lakh, which further dropped to 77 lakh on 19 September. Over the next three days, the number of vaccinations stood at 85 lakh, 68 lakh and 64 lakh, respectively.
Husain Baji was among those who were issued a certificate for the vaccine on 17 September without getting a shot. Baji, a final-year student of architecture from Vadodra, Gujarat, said, “I got my certificate without even taking the second dose.” In addition, his certificate had been issued by the Desaiwada UPHC 2, in Dahod, his hometown. Baji added, “As I had received the certificate, I was scared about not being able to book a slot for my actual vaccination.” He told me that he went to the Kendriya Vidyalaya, a government school, where he had received his first dose, to check what could be done. “Surprisingly, the healthcare workers there did not have a problem with giving me the dose there.” Baji added, “What’s peculiar here is that my second dose happened in Vadodara but the certificate says it happened in my hometown Dahod, I wasn’t even there.”
Baji told me that he knew of more people in his locality who had gone through the same confusion. “There are seven-eight more people who faced a similar situation. They were not vaccinated but received a certificate on 17th itself.” He had put up a post on social media to which several people responded with similar accounts. He said that he initially thought it was “a small town thing but after speaking to my friends, I realised there might be a bigger picture to this.”