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NEW DELHI : The Centre has asked states to authenticate covid-19 vaccines before using them  for the national immunization drive. The warning comes two weeks after a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) seized counterfeit Covishield vials from Kolkata.

In a letter to additional chief secretaries, principal secretaries and health secretaries of all states and Union territories, Manohar Agnani, additional secretary, Union health ministry, has provided information on genuine vaccine labels for Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V, which are in use in India, to help them identify genuine and fake products.

Agnani asked states to share the information with the programme managers and service providers of the national covid-19 vaccination programme. Mint has reviewed a copy of the letter. “Service providers and monitoring teams for covid-19 vaccination may be informed about these details and to ensure due diligence towards recognition of counterfeit vaccines," Agnani said. 

For instance, it said Covishield’s label and the aluminium flip-off seal are dark green (Pantone 355C), and the brand name with trade mark is mentioned as COVISHIELD, and the font of the generic name is not in bold. The government said the Serum Institute of India logo is printed at a unique angle on the adhesive side of the label and the position can be identified only by a select few who are aware of the exact details. The label has been given a special texture honeycomb effect, which is visible only at a specific angle, the government said, and added that at strategic locations, the honeycomb design has been altered slightly and certain additional special elements were added to the texture of the design such that it is not visible to a layman, but people who know the difference can easily verify the authenticity of the label and vial. 

For identifying Covaxin, there is an invisible UV helix on the label, which is only visible under ultraviolet light. Micro text hidden in the label claim Dots, which is written as COVAXIN. There is also a green foil effect in the “x" of “Covaxin". 

For Sputnik V, the health ministry said imported products are from two bulk manufacturing sites from Russia and hence, there are two different labels. While all the information and design are the same, the manufacturers’ names are different. For all the imported products, English labels are only available on the front and back of the carton of a five-ampoule pack, while for all other sides, it is in Russian. 

Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya had said that the government has launched an investigation into counterfeit versions of Covishield. “It has been claimed that duplicate versions of Covishield vaccine were sold in the country. The Indian government is probing this claim and will take action if it finds substance to the allegations," he had said. 

The WHO had urged India to increase vigilance in hospitals, clinics, health centres, and at wholesalers, distributors, pharmacies and suppliers of medical products.

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