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Fake CoWin vaccine certificate fraud rocks Madhya Pradesh; probe ordered

Investigations have been launched at various levels in the Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh following the discovery of supposed abuse of the central government’s CoWIN portal, a centralised digital platform for Covid-19 vaccine registration. This was allegedly used to dispense fraudulent Covid vaccination certificates to several recipients.

The alleged misuse of CoWIN was exposed on May 30, when a beneficiary requested his Covid-19 vaccination certificate from the local health department. Notably, there has been no vaccination activity at government facilities in the state for the past four to five months. Despite this, an admin login to the portal indicated that, via the portal misuse, fake vaccination sessions had been established at the sub-health centre (SHC) in the Soni area under the Mehgaon block of Bhind to distribute counterfeit vaccination certificates.

A subsequent field investigation determined that no vaccination session had taken place at the SHC in question on the relevant date (May 30, 2023). The fraudulent vaccination session visible on the portal was then terminated by health department personnel, and a list of 36 supposed beneficiaries was obtained.

The whole issue was then reported to the district’s Chief Medical and Health Officer (CMHO) and the district collector Satish Kumar S. At the collector’s directive, the matter was escalated to the Mission Director (National Health Mission, MP), Director (Vaccination-NHM MP), and the district police superintendent for a comprehensive examination.

A later login to the vaccination portal revealed that despite a change in the admin login ID password, the portal was still being abused to create vaccination certificates through phantom sessions. The related session was halted again, and a list of 91 beneficiaries was compiled and shared with relevant senior officials.

After contacting a few individuals listed as fake beneficiaries, the health department personnel discovered that all of them were from outside Madhya Pradesh and were oblivious to the incident, except that it was perpetrated by some agents.

Statements from the SHC staff involved, from Auxiliary Nurse Midwives and data entry operators to the Block Medical Officers, have also been taken by the health department. The district Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr UPS Kushwah, has reported the entire issue to superior authorities in Bhopal, Gwalior, and Bhind through a letter dated May 31.

While the district CMHO refrained from sharing full details with the media, the district collector, Satish Kumar S, said “The matter pertains to alleged misuse of the portal. It’s a matter of investigation as to who and how misused the portal. The matter is a highly technical issue, which has been reported to the IT Team of NHM MP in Bhopal and the Bhind district police for a thorough probe. Based on the findings of the probe, action will be initiated against wrong-doers.”

According to informed sources, a thorough investigation might reveal an organised racket involved in distributing counterfeit Covid-19 vaccination certificates, particularly to those travelling abroad, by abusing the vaccination portal. NDTV

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