A man from Bihar’s Madhepura district, who claimed to have taken 12 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine against the norm of two, has taken at least eight doses of Covishield in as many months in his home district, a recent inquiry by the state government revealed, according to officials aware of the development.
The finding has exposed flaws in the government’s CoWIN portal through which Covid-19 vaccination is being administered, and steps are being considered to iron out these flaws, the officials added.
HT accessed copies of at least four Covid-19 vaccination reports that account for eight doses administered to Brahamdev Mandal, 84, a resident of Orai village under Puraini police station of Madhepura, 240 km north-east of Patna.
The shots, as per the vaccination certificates, were taken between March 13 and November 7, 2021.
According to one certificate (beneficiary reference ID 570390402565), Mandal took two shots of the vaccine the same day on April 13, 2021.
“This raises question how the CoWIN portal allowed certification of the second dose of vaccine on the same day against the then minimum stipulated period of 28 days between the two jabs,” said one of the officials cited above.
Another certificate (beneficiary reference ID 5701479124460) shows that Mandal took the two jabs at an interval of 33 days between June 21 and July 24, last year. The Union government, from May 12, extended the interval between two doses of Covishield to 84 days from the earlier prescribed 28-42 days.
“This again, raises question how the CoWIN portal allowed certification of the second dose before completion of the minimum prescribed period of 84 days between the two jabs,” the official said.
While three vaccination certificates mention Mandal’s age as 84 years, one certificate (beneficiary reference ID 570403079410) shows him to be 67 years old.
Mandal took the jabs at different vaccination centres, which include the Puraini health subcentre, Puraini primary health centre, Puraini additional primary health centre, and the Puraini Uttkramit Middle School, a special vaccination camp near the primary health centre.
The last four digits of Mandal’s Aadhaar ID, a copy of which is with HT, match with the Aadhaar number mentioned on two vaccination certificates. The 12-digit Aadhaar number is completely masked on the other two certificates.
Health officials believe that Mandal could have taken the jabs at special vaccination camps in rural areas because instant entry and authentication on the CoWIN portal was not always possible through tablets provided to auxiliary nursing midwives (ANMs), who were the vaccinators.
“This may have happened either because of internet connectivity issues or the ANMs not being tech savvy, and resorting to offline mode of registration by collecting copies of Aadhaar of beneficiaries and uploading them on the CoWIN portal at a later date, in the haste to achieve their daily target of inoculation given by their superiors,” the firstofficial said.
Bihar administered over 100 million doses against a target of 60 million doses in six months by chief minister Nitish Kumar in June.
State health officials are tight-lipped about more details of this peculiar case.
“We submitted our report on Mandal’s claim to the executive director, State Health Society, Bihar (SHSB), on January 8,” said Dr Abdus Salam, additional chief medical officer, officiating as the civil surgeon of Madhepura. He, however, refused to elaborate on the issue or share the contents of the inquiry report, saying they were confidential.
SHSB executive director Sanjay Kumar Singh said: “I am not privy to the report, which has been submitted to my superiors.”
Pratyaya Amrit, Bihar’s additional chief secretary, health, did not respond to text messages on Wednesday and Thursday seeking comments.
He, however, said at a virtual media briefing on Tuesday that the state had submitted its report to the Centre.
“If you violate the law, you cannot expect the police to not hunt for you. If the rule is to take two doses and you take 12, as Mandal has claimed, though it is not substantiated yet, it is obviously not right. The inquiry prima facie points out that he (Mandal) used different IDs and also those of his relatives [to inoculate himself], which was absolutely wrong. Every citizen of this country has to abide by the rules and the law. Therefore, an FIR has been lodged against him and he will be arrested very soon,” Amrit said on Tuesday in response to a question why an FIR was lodged against Mandal when it was the flaw in the system that allowed him to take 12 jabs.
As for the flaw in the CoWIN portal, Amrit said: “This is the first time such a portal has been made. It is a robust system and it takes time for any system to be foolproof. This is a very good and reliable portal. We have got a detailed inquiry done and submitted our report to the government of India. We are in talks with the Centre on this issue.”
While formal request for a response has been sent to the health ministry, people familiar with the development in the central government, on condition of anonymity, said, “CoWIN has captured only two such names. The Centre has asked the state government for a report.”
Mandal is evading arrest after an FIR (first information report) was lodged under sections 419 (cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating and dishonesty) and 188 (disobedience of order promulgated by government) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at the Puraini police station on January 8.
While he took at least four doses of the vaccine on his own Aadhaar ID, which has been verified from physical records, he said earlier that he also used the IDs of his wife and his nephew to inoculate himself at Puraini village in Madhepura, Parvatta village in Khagaria, and Kahalgaon town of Bhagalpur district.
Mandal claimed on January 5 to have taken the vaccine doses on February 13, March 13, May 19, June 16, July 24, August 31, September 11, September 22, September 24, December 28, December 30 last year, and on January 4 this year.
Barring March 13, July 24 and August 31, the other dates do not match those on his vaccination certificate.
“In a few cases, the variation in Mandal’s claim of having taken a shot of the vaccine and the date mentioned on his certificate is of 5-17 days. This is a pointer to the fact that some of Mandal’s inoculations were authenticated and uploaded on the CoWIN portal offline, at a later date, after he took the shot,” the officer cited in the first instance said.
“Extra dose in such a high number is bound to have some adverse health impact but it will be difficult to say what exactly the impact is going to be. It depends on several factors such as which vaccine the person has taken; whether the attenuated one or the other one. To know the real impact, it would require some in-depth studies,” said Dr GC Khilnani, former head, pulmonology department, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi .
“Taking 12 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in 11 months is sheer wastage of the vaccine, as the same antibody level could have been achieved in three doses only. There is no scientific study that proves that taking so many doses of the vaccine in such a short period will augment one’s antibody formation. The antibody, induced by the vaccine, begins to decline only after six months. This is why the government has decided on precautionary dose after nine months,” said Dr Prabhat Kumar Sinha, visiting professor (research) of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences and a retired scientist ‘G’ of the ICMR-Rajendra Memorial Research Institute of Medical Sciences in Patna.
“The CoWIN portal has undergone many modifications since its launch to plug such loopholes in the system. It is not possible anymore for an individual to take multiple doses of the vaccine using the same ID, including Aadhaar,” said a technical person handling the CoWIN, requesting anonymity.