Before we bid goodbye to 2021, we must learn and question all the fake claims swirling around COVID-19 vaccines. Since children and the elderly will soon get jabbed with first and booster shots, respectively, let's brush up our knowledge on what's true and what's not.

An analysis of the claims FactChecker busted in the past year showed that many cities and states hurriedly jumped to claim that they had inoculated all of their population when many citizens there still hadn't received a jab. And, so did the Centre. In the race of being the first, several administrations forgot to factor in recovered patients, migrants, tourists and inaccuracy of population data.

Claims spreading misinformation about vaccines' ingredients and role in this pandemic were also made during the year. Vaccine supply, availability and cost were also much-discussed and disputed issues in the country all of last year.

Here are the COVID-19 vaccine-related claims public figures made and how they fare against research and official records.

Nobel Laureate Calls Vaccines a 'Scientific Error'

In May 2021, French virologist and Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier called the current COVID-19 mass vaccination programmes an "unacceptable mistake" and "a scientific and medical error". In an interview published by US-based grassroots and investigative organisation RAIR Foundation, he said COVID-19 vaccines were creating more variants.

But what went viral on social media is a message claiming that Montagnier has "confirmed" that "all vaccinated people will die within two years". Montagnier never made such a claim in any of his interviews, clarified RAIR Foundation.

About what he did claim in the two-minute clip, FactChecker spoke to two public health experts and both confirmed his anti-vaccine statements to be unscientific and illogical. Read the fact-check here.

'All Indians to be Fully Vaccinated by Dec'

In May 2021, the then Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar claimed that all Indians will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 2021. This is when the Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan had himself not promised a fully vaccinated India. Vardhan had said "by the end of the year, the country will be in a position to vaccinate at least all of its adult population".

When FactChecker checked if the then environment minister's claim about a health crisis is backed by data, and it didn't seem to be. According to COWIN portal, over 1.45 billion total vaccine doses had been administered by the time this article was published on December 31, 2021. This included 84.6 crore first doses and 60.44 crore second doses.

Read FactChecker's analysis here.

'Calf Serum in Covaxin'

Gaurav Pandhi, Congress' National Co-ordinator of Digital Communications and Social Media, shared a response to an RTI query filed by one Vikas Patni and claimed that "Covaxin contains newborn calf serum". He tweeted in June 2021, "Modi govt has admitted that Covaxin consists new born calf serum which is a portion of clotted blood obtained from less than 20 days young cow-calves after slaughtering them… This information should have been made public before."

But, official information available in public domain and virologists FactChecker spoke to said using cattle blood serum from newborn cattle for vaccines is not a new practice and has been a vital part of biological research. The Centre also issued a clarification saying that although calf serum is involved in the process of making the vaccine, but finished product does not contain the serum. Scientists also said animals are not killed to derive blood serum for Covaxin.

Read the fact-check here.

Bihar Deputy CM Quotes Incorrect Data on Vaccination Cost, Coverage

In June 2021, Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi, in a seven-minute-long interview with The Print, made three claims regarding vaccines:

    • PM Modi had reduced the cost of the vaccine from Rs. 900 to Rs. 150 in the private sector, she said. But the fact was that it wasn't the cost that was capped by the Centre but the service charge of administering the vaccine.
    • "It will take time to vaccinate 13 crore people as currently we [Bihar] has crossed 1-crore mark under the vaccination drive," claimed Devi. She drew a comparison between population and number of doses administered. Although a total of 1.14 crore doses had been given in Bihar by then, 18.83 lakh were fully vaccinated.
    • "We have 726 vaccination vans in rural areas and 121 in urban areas," she claimed. The number she claims for rural areas is slightly off as, according to Bihar CM Nitish Kumar's statement, there were 718 such vans administering doses to around 200 people a day.

Read the fact-check here.

'India Achieved Highest Single Day Vaccination'

After a record 8.6 million vaccine doses were administered in India on June 21, 2021, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan claimed that it was the highest single day coverage across the world.

China had already crossed the 20 million mark on June 4. On June 21, when India's vaccine numbers reached a record-high of 8.6 million, China administered 20.80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses — more than twice as much as India's count, data from Our World in Data showed.

Read the fact-check here.

'India Met July Target for Vaccine Supply'

In August 2021, NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr Vinod K Paul claimed that the government had met its target of providing the states with 51.6 crore vaccine doses for July.

But, data from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), on July 31, 2021 showed that this achievement didn't take place until almost a week later. When FactChecker contacted Paul for clarification, he only commented on the remaining vaccine doses that were in the pipeline and nothing else.

Read the fact-check here.

'Only 2 Delhi Inmates Jabbed'

In August 2021, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya claimed that only two doses of vaccine had been administered to inmates in Delhi jails till August 4, 2021. But, data received in response to a Right to Information (RTI) query filed by FactChecker and that shared by Sandeep Goel, Director General of Delhi Prisons, proved Mandaviya's claim false.

Delhi has 16 central jails, of which FactChecker received data via RTI for 13. This record showed that 641 inmates and 844 prison staff had received first dose till April 10, 2021. Goel told FactChecker on August 20, 2021 that 10,885 COVID vaccine doses (10,068 first doses and 817 second doses) had been administered to inmates in Delhi till then.

Read the fact-check here.

'First to Inoculate Population'

Centre and state governments, in September 2021, claimed that six states and UTs, including Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Lakshadweep and Sikkim, had administered first dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 100% of their eligible citizens.

This claim is misleading because the first COVID-19 vaccine dose is also given to people who do not reside in that particular state or UT, including tourists, migrant labourers, etc. Since the states/UTs do not maintain a separate vaccination register for non-residents, both residents and non-residents are counted against the place's targeted population in the CoWIN tally.

Many authorities did not factor in people who recovered from COVID-19 and were waiting the required three months before getting vaccinated. Some of these claims are based on data culled from electoral population which does not include all citizens. Till January 2018, around 64% of eligible voters were on electoral roll.

Read this fact-check here.

This was not the first time such a claim had been made. FactChecker had also checked the claims made by officials from Bhubaneswar and Bengaluru Urban district about achieving 100% first dose vaccination coverage.

India Neither First to Give 100 Cr Doses, Nor Were Doses Free

India recorded its one billionth vaccine dose on October 21, 2021. Citing this feat, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare quoted Union Power Minister Raj K Singh as saying that India became the first country in the world to administer 100 crore vaccine doses.

In the video linked in the tweet, Singh never said India was the "first country in the world" to administer 100 crore doses. Moreover, India was not the first country in the world to administer one billion vaccine doses then. China administered its billionth vaccine dose on June 19, 2021 and it also crossed the 2-billion mark on August 26, 2021.

On the other hand, while addressing the nation on crossing the 100 crore COVID-19 vaccine administration landmark on October 22, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra claimed that his government administered 100 crore doses free of cost to the citizens of the country.

Although absolute official numbers of total vaccines administered by public and private sectors have not been released, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, on September 23, 2021, had said 6% of COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered in private health centres between May 1 and September 22, 2021. And, the Centre had fixed charges for three vaccines in private hospitals — Rs 780 for Covishield, Rs 1,410 for Covaxin and Rs 1,145 for Sputnik.

Read these fact-checks here and here.