The Mumbai Police have arrested 14 people on suspicion of involvement in a scheme that administered injections of salt water instead of coronavirus vaccine doses at nearly a dozen private vaccination sites in the country’s commercial capital over the past two months.
The arrestees include medical professionals, allegedly charged between ₹759 and ₹1250 per dose, according to the authorities, who said they had confiscated more than ₹15 lakh from the suspects.
Those arrested are charged under criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery, according to statements from senior cops.
The Mumbai Police said it is investigating 11 illegal vaccination drives that between May 25 and June 6, over 2680 people were administered saline water in these camps in place of COVID-19 vaccines.
These drives were conducted at many places including Kandivali, Malad, Borivali, Andheri, Khar, Versova and Parel.
So far, nine FIRs have been registered in Mumbai, one in Thane and now one in Navi Mumbai in connection with the fake vaccination scam.
Sources in the Mumbai Police said that more FIRs are likely to be filed in the future. “More people are coming forward who were vaccinated by the group,” added sources.
More than 2,600 people came to the camps to receive shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured and marketed in India as Covishield. Some said that they became suspicious when their shots did not show up in the Union government’s online portal tracking vaccinations, and when the hospitals that the organizers had claimed to be affiliated with did not match the names on the vaccination certificates they received.
The accused include Mahendra Pratap Singh,former member of Malad Medical Association, Dr. Manish Tripathi, Ashish Mishra, who belongs to Aditya College of Architecture, Shivam Hospital owners Dr Shivraj Pataria and wife Neeta and Rajesh Pandey, marketing executive with Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital.
State health minister Rajesh Tope said they are thinking of getting an antibody test done on all the 2,680 duped beneficiaries. “We will plan proper vaccination and register them on Co-WIN after discussing the matter with the Central government,” he adds.
India has administered more than 340 million vaccine doses, but less than 5 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.