By Ragini Ghosh and Sanjana Kala
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, on September 05, 2021, issued guidelines to all States and Union Territories to identify fake vaccines being disseminated in the market. These guidelines have been published in the wake of a statement issued by the World Health Organisation last week wherein they averred to counterfeit versions of Covishield available in South-East Asia and Africa. The Union Health Minister of India has also issued a statement stating that the government is probing claims of fake Covishield vaccines being sold in the healthcare sector.1
According to reports, the Centre has shared a list of parameters based on label, colour and other details of the COVID vaccines that are currently being used for inoculation in the country2, namely Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V, to confirm their authenticity.
The guidelines focus on various trade dress/ packaging aspects of the vaccine, in particular art work, colour scheme and placement of literature, as below:
Parameters to check the authenticity of Covishield vaccine
- Colour shade of the label on the Covishield vaccine is dark green, as per the approved art work;
- Colour of the aluminium flip off seal is also dark green;
- Brand name with trademark is mentioned on the original vaccine;
- The lettering on the vaccine is printed in special white ink to be clearer and more readable;
- The text font of the generic name is not in bold;
- The SII logo is printed at a unique angle and position which can only be identified by select persons who are aware of the exact details;
- The entire label has been given a special texture honeycomb effect which is visible only at a specific angle. To make it fool-proof, the honeycomb design has also been altered slightly at certain locations.3
Parameters to check the authenticity of Covaxin
- Invisible UV helix on label which is only visible under ultra-violet light;
- Micro text hidden in label claims Dots (written as Covaxin);
- Holographic effect has been given on the name Covaxin, and the ‘X’ of the name features a green foil effect4
Parameters to check the authenticity of Sputnik V
- Since the imported products are from two different bulk manufacturing sites in Russia, there are two different labels corresponding to both these sites. All the information and design/ artwork is the same, however, the manufacturer name is different;
- Imported products till now have only the English label available on the front and back of the carton of 5 ampoule packs;
- All the other sides, including the primary label on the ampoule, is in Russian.5
Recently, we analysed how the pandemic has seen a rise in instances of fraud and counterfeiting perpetuated by online channels and on social media here6 and here7. However, with over 686 million doses administered till now8, India’s cumulative vaccination coverage has resulted in the daily case count dropping and the infection curve flattening.
While the way forward is not easy, given the sheer population to be inoculated, coupled with other hurdles to vaccination, including general suspicion of the vaccine in rural areas, the need of the hour is to now educate and disseminate the necessary information through health workers and government employees engaged in administering/ delivering the vaccine to citizens so that the virus can be effectively combated and eliminated swiftly.