You’d think that having an expert opinion on vaccines would require years of study, specialization, and medical degrees, but India’s influencers seem to think only need a Twitter account.
Author Chetan Bhagat today joined the bandwagon of celebrities appearing to lobby for the Pfizer vaccine. “The Pfizer vaccine, one of the best ones, used in most developed countries, applied for permission in India in Dec-2020. India instead asked them to do more studies here. Pfizer withdrew its application in Feb-21. Imagine lives saved if we allowed the vaccine from December itself,” he tweeted.
Bhagat didn’t only bat for the vaccine, but went as far as to claim that lives could’ve been saved if India had approved the vaccine all the way in December. But his tweet was so chock-full of half truths and misrepresentations that he was immediately called out by netizens.
For starters, Bhagat had failed to mention how Pfizer had asked for indemnity — which is security or protection against a loss or other financial burden — from the Indian government. This meant that Pfizer said that it wouldn’t be held responsible for any ill-effects from the vaccines, including deaths and side effects. Chetan Bhagat might now bat for the Pfizer vaccine, but would he have personally taken responsibility for deaths arising from the vaccine?
“One correction – Pfizer wanted India to sign an indemnity which means if something serious side effect happened , they won’t be liable,’ wrote a Twitter user.
Other Twitter users pointed out that the vaccine requires to be stored at extremely low temperatures, which is not possible to do in Indian supply chains. “Chaman, stick to your semi porn novels. Don’t speak about things you have no idea about. Pfizer vaccines need to be stored at -60 to -80 and 25 to -15 while transporting,” wrote Twitter user Befitting Facts.
Chetan Bhagat was also corrected by real doctors. Twitter user The Skin Doctor, who is a real-life skin doctor, told Bhagat that India had merely asked Pfizer to do studies in India because the vaccine hadn’t been tested among Indian populations. “The Scientists and Researchers (not politicians) under CDSCO did not recommend Pfizer to DGCI because of its post marketing side effects like palsy and anaphylaxis. Pfizer said they will re apply again with a plan to generate safety data on Indian population. What’s wrong? If a vaccine is safe on US people it does not mean it’ll be safe on Indians as well. That’s why bridge trials are required which Pfizer refused despite various serious side effects noted in post marketing,” he added.
Soon Bhagat was being trolled. “Bhai Vaccine hai, Samosa nahi,” wrote Twitter user Gabbar.
Others raised more serious concerns, and wondered if Chetan Bhagat was being paid by Pfizer to lobby on its behalf.
Yet others asked for Chetan Bhagat to be arrested.
Over the last few days, a remarkable number of influencers with no expertise in vaccinations seem to have collectively decided how great the Pfizer vaccine is, and are batting for it in spite of its shortcomings and unsuitability in the Indian context. It’s an issue that authorities need to investigate — if influencers are being paid by corporate interests to recommend specific medications, they have the potential to jeopardize the health and well-being of millions of Indian people.