Several Congress social media accounts have shared a graphic that claims that the former UPA government offered ‘free of cost vaccines for 12 preventable diseases’ while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is charging Rs 250 per dose for the COVID vaccine at private hospitals.

INC Andhra Pradesh, Goa Pradesh Congress Sevadal, West Bengal Pradesh Mahila Congress, Himachal Pradesh Congress Sevadal (Hindi), and Maharashtra Youth Congress were among the handles affiliated to the party that shared the infographic.

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Congress leaders Akoijam Mirabai, Vivek Bansal and SS Kim posted this infographic as well.

Misleading claim

Congress compared vaccines for 12 preventable diseases provided at government hospitals at no cost with the price of COVID-19 vaccines at private hospitals. As a result, readers are led to believe that the BJP is not offering any vaccines, including COVID vaccines, free of charge.

The vaccines for 12 preventable diseases cited on the infographic are based on the country’s Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). National Health Mission (NHM) states that UIP is one of the largest public health programmes targeting close to 2.67 crore newborns and 2.9 crore pregnant women annually.

According to NHM, “Under UIP, immunization is providing free of cost against 12 vaccine-preventable diseases: Nationally against 9 diseases – Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio, Measles, Rubella, a severe form of Childhood Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and Meningitis & Pneumonia caused by Hemophilus Influenza type B and Sub-nationally against 3 diseases – Rotavirus diarrhoea, Pneumococcal Pneumonia and Japanese Encephalitis; of which Rotavirus.” This was offered during the Congress government’s term and still is.

Private sector hospitals also play a crucial role in making India 100% immunised. However, they don’t offer the vaccines for free. We contacted a spokesperson of one of India’s largest private hospital players. The spokesperson clarified, “Private hospitals do not provide vaccines for free. They never have. However, government hospitals do.” Congress’s claim that they offered ‘free of cost vaccines for 12 preventable diseases’ is misleading because even under their term private hospitals charged for the vaccines.

As per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare document ‘FAQs on Immunization 2017’ (view pdf), the vaccines below are free at government health care centres (page 12). These are 12 vaccines that prevent 18 diseases.

Alt News also found ‘FAQs on Immunization 2013‘ (view pdf) on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website. Back then, eight vaccines under UIP protected against nine diseases.

On February 28, Press Information Bureau issued a press release on COVD-19 jabs stating, “It was re-iterated that all vaccines provided to beneficiaries at the Government Health Facilities will be entirely free of cost, while Private Facilities cannot charge the beneficiary a sum above Rs. 250 per person per dose (Rs 150/- for vaccines and Rs 100/- as operational charges). Private Hospitals are to remit the cost of vaccine doses allotted to them in a designated account of National Health Authority (NHA). The payment gateway for the same is being enabled by NHA on their website.”

However, it is also noteworthy that major countries – China, US, EU, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil – are providing COVID vaccines to citizens at no cost and India is the only country that has not pledged to provide free vaccination.

It may be reiterated that Congress compared free vaccines under UIP with the cost of COVID vaccines at private hospitals during BJP’s rule. Vaccines under UIP are still provided for free at government health facilities.

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About the Author

Archit is a fact-checking journalist at Alt News since November 2019. Previously, he has worked as a producer at a TV news channel and as a reporter at a leading English-language daily. In addition to work experience in media, he has also worked as a fundraising and communication manager at an NGO.