Hundreds of people who were ‘inoculated’ at multiple vaccination camps in Kolkata organised by alleged fraudster Debanjan Deb may have been administered Amikacin Sulphate, an antibiotic, officials say. The vials seized from Debanjan’s Kasba office were not Covishield, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) confirmed on Thursday.
Trinamool Congress MP Mimi Chakraborty was also allegedly duped as she attended a camp on an invitation and took a dose. She, however, grew suspicious when she didn’t receive any message on her phone afterwards. Debanjan Deb, the organiser of the camps, has already been arrested. After that, panic spread among the people who got jabs at the vaccination centres. Followers of Chakraborty, who is also a popular actress, have expressed concerns about her health. The MP then issued a video message on social media, saying she was fine, to curb the panic. “I have received many phone calls and messages since that incident. I want to let them know that I’m fine. Don’t be afraid. I hope you all are healthy too. Samples of the vaccine have been sent to the lab. We will get to know about the details in 4-5 days, what exactly was in it. But as far as I know, there was nothing harmful in it. But, yes, there was no vaccine in it,” she said in the video.
Chakraborty told the media that she already had liver problems. Though she has not yet had any physical after-effects of the ‘fake vaccine’, she says she still doesn’t want to take a risk. The Lok Sabha lawmaker decided to undergo a health check-up on Friday on the advice of a doctor, including liver and blood tests.
Ranita Sengupta, deputy chief medical health officer at KMC, said the vials used by Deb had labels with Covishield written in green on them. They didn’t have any batch number, manufacturing date, expiry date, or the company’s name. They only said “recombinant vaccine”. The vials were also smaller than actual Covishield ones.
Atin Ghosh, a member of the KMC board of administrators, said, “All the organisations that are applying for vaccination drives are being asked to set up an inoculation camp. The forgers are taking advantage of this. KMC will gradually make arrangements (mostly) for vaccinations from its own centres…Such things cannot happen without the support of the locals. The local coordinator should have been more careful.”
Amikacin is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections of the urinary tract, bones and joints, lungs, brain, blood, etc. Common side effects include injection site reactions and increased blood urea. But whether the contents of the vial were actually Amikacin Sulphate is yet to be ascertained.
The accused used rental cars with blue beacons and banners of KMC on them, officials say. He used to change the vehicles every month and paid thousands of rupees to the drivers. His security guards also got high salaries. During the investigation, the police came to know that he used to fill his pockets through cheating. Sometimes he would say that he was an IAS officer. At other times he would pose as the joint commissioner of Kolkata Municipal Corporation. He used fake identities to set up vaccination camps in several areas of Kolkata.
Similar incidents have been reported from Mumbai where more than 2,000 people have fallen victim to fake Covid vaccination camps, the Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Thursday. The state government’s counsel, chief public prosecutor Deepak Thakare, told the court that at least nine fake camps had been held in the city, and four separate FIRs had been registered in this connection.
The Maharashtra government also submitted before a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni a status report of the ongoing probe. The state also said that the police had recorded the statements of 400 witnesses so far and the investigators were in the process of finding the whereabouts of a doctor, who was an accused in an incident that took place at a housing society in suburban Kandivali, where one such camp was held.