The illegal vaccination camps allegedly conducted by Debanjan Deb, who used the emblem of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation on the premises, has left even those who were vaccinated at genuine CMC centres scared.
Many recipients who did not receive any text message after getting vaccinated turned up at the vaccination sites on Friday, anxious whether they too had been duped.
The civic officials running the vaccination sites told the recipients that some technical glitch could have been responsible for the delay in the arrival of the message and advised the recipients to log into the CoWIN portal and verify their vaccination status.
“Some of those who had taken vaccines earlier but did not get any text message came today to ask why they had not received any message. They said they had learnt that recipients of fake vaccines at the illegal camps did not get any message, too,” said an official of the CMC who is in charge of vaccination in one of the boroughs.
“We told them to download their vaccination certificates from the CoWIN portal. The certificate is proof that they had got a genuine vaccine.”
The civic body is administering Covid vaccines from more than 140 ward health clinics run by it. Besides, many off-site vaccination camps are being organised.
A section of civic officials admitted that people were likely to be fooled if the organisers of an illegal camp used the CMC emblem. “There is no list of vaccination sites of the CMC available in one place. A list of megacentres is there on the CMC’s website but I am not sure if it is regularly updated because we keep opening new centres every week,” the official said.
The off-site centres include the ones where members of priority groups like public transport drivers and conductors, and retailers are being vaccinated.
“We are using community halls or other properties of the CMC that are rarely being used during the pandemic to vaccinate anyone from a priority group. These are called megacentres,” said a CMC official.
There are some off-site centres where members of select priority groups such as sex workers are vaccinated.
At five of the off-site centres managed by the CMC, bookings are being done through the WhatsApp chatbot number 8335999000. These centres are at St Xavier’s College on Park Street, Quest Mall on Syed Amir Ali Avenue, Roxy cinema in Esplanade, Bidhan Sishu Udyan near Ultadanga and South City International School on Prince Anwar Shah Road.
It is easy to verify the authenticity of the vaccination programme being run from the ward health clinics because the clinics have been there for long and residents know they are run by the CMC.
The authenticity of the jab drive at the centres where the appointments are made through the chatbot is easy to ascertain, too, because the CMC’s twitter handle mentions the number of the chatbot.
A Gariahat resident suggested that the CMC display the name of the official running a vaccination centre and his or her contact details outside the centre. Such details should also be available on the CMC website, the Gariahat resident said.
“It is only then that people will be able to distinguish between genuine centres and illegal ones. We do not know whether more such illegal camps were held in the city,” the resident said.