Just 10 days before the country was to take up the pulse polio drive, fake news started appearing that there is a shortage of polio vaccine and the National Immunization Day scheduled for February 3 will be postponed.
While the message was slowly gaining readership on social media, online news publication “The Print” published a story on Thursday headlined, “India doesn’t have polio vaccine for the next round of immunisation.” Here’s a screen grab:
Soon misinterpretations took several formats going to the extreme of saying the fiscal budget deficit this year may not afford enough polio vaccines for the country’s children. Maharashtra Congress has captioned it in large comparing it with other expenditure as below. Many have trolled the shortage of vaccines as seen below:
Modi Govt has postponed indefinitely the polio immunisation as India is facing acute shortage of polio vaccines due to lack of funding!
We have a Govt at Centre which squandered ₹6000 Cr from Taxpayer’s money for Prime Minister’s publicity & foreign tourshttps://t.co/OzfzHYSY9U
— Maharashtra Congress (@INCMaharashtra) January 25, 2019
— Anthony Saldanha (@AnthonySald) January 25, 2019
Other messages on Twitter tried to reason out the delay in Immunization drive due to the defective samples detected in the Ghaziabad unit of the supplying pharma company. Other’s came out in staunch support of the government’s efforts.
After the media couldn’t find anything to target Ayushman Bharat, it’s started spreading fake news about “Shortage of Polio Vaccines”. Shekhar Gupta’s The Print spread it
But the fact is there’s no shortage of Polio vaccines in India & Govt hasn’t postponed National Immunisation Day.
— Anshul Saxena (@AskAnshul) January 25, 2019
The issue was going viral online until the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare came out with a statement refuting the allegations and announcing categorically that the immunization drive will be held as per the schedule on February 3. “There is no shortage of Oral Polio Vaccines (OPV) and Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) in the country,” the ministry said in a press release. (See the press release here)
The government has also said that the required quantity of bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) for the national immunization day has already been secured.
Last year, more than 17 crore children of less than five years across the country were given polio drops as part of the drive of Government of India to sustain polio eradication, on January 27. But this year, it has been delayed by one week.
The health ministry said the testing of polio vaccine bOPV is made more stringent this time and the procurement will be dispatched once the clearance from national testing laboratory for each batch is received.
India has been declared polio free in 2014 but the immunization program continues as per the World Health Organization’s guidelines. The last case of polio was reported in 2011.