Iftikhar Khan

PESHAWAR: The officials of Health Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and rest of Pakistan were so far declared responsible for fake coronavirus vaccination certificates. However, it has come to surface now that the Nadra system of securing the coronavirus vaccination data (NIMS) was hacked.

An official has revealed that hackers registered data in NIMS database and issued fake certificates. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has also launched inquiry into fake vaccination certificates and Health Department officials are mostly under radar. Two health workers were sacked in Mardan and Nowshera last month, while one official was under inquiry in Peshawar.

The issue caused global embarrassment for Pakistan government when a fake coronavirus vaccination certificate in the name of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is in London, was issued on September 23. The FIA has so far arrested 41 suspects and further probe is underway. An FIA official said the probe agency is only depending on its own sources in the probe.

Why health workers are targeted?

Health workers are mostly under investigation because only they are authorised to enter data into Nadra records.

A trader from Buner told TNN on condition of anonymity that he obtained certificate without undergoing vaccination. He said he went to a vaccination centre in Karachi twice but had to return due to huge rush there. Afterwards, a friend in Health Department got him certificate from Nadra without vaccination and that too within three hours.

The trader said health workers are mostly involved in this practice who do it to favour friends, or in return for money.

Health reporter from Peshawar Zahid Mirokhel said all health officials had been given targets of vaccinating people, and in case of missing of that target, they had to face intimidation from higher authorities. He said when targets are unlikely to be achieved, then health officials make entry without vaccination. He said another scandal is that the health officials have copied data from voter lists and put it into NIMS system.

Hacking of NIMS

None other than the EPI director himself made revelation that the system was hacked.

Dr Arif told TNN that some hackers from Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had got access to NIMS system by impersonating as NCOC officials and obtaining data from health officials through phone calls. He said the health officials were then informed to be careful about such calls.

A woman from Hangu told TNN that she sent an Afghan woman for vaccination by giving her identity card and then obtained certificate.

How many certificates are fake?

The number of people undergoing first dose of coronavirus vaccine has crossed 80 million, which is an encouraging scenario, but those who have completed vaccination course are only 12 percent of the entire population.

In KP, more than 500,000 people are yet to receive second dose of vaccination. KP Deputy Director EPI Dr Fayyaz said people are reluctant to go for second dose due to rumours, but the government is committed to ensure full vaccination.

The FIA and Health Department have no verified data as to how many people have received fake certificates.

Backlog and unverified data

The issues of backlog and unverified data are also haunting the KP government besides fake vaccination.

The whole data of vaccination is sent to NCOC on daily basis. Then the data is audited and matched with the used vaccination equipment. If more vaccine is used and less persons are registered then it is called backlog, while if entry is more than the used vaccine, then it is called unverified data.

As of September 30, backlog in KP was recorded at 101,204, while unverified data was recorded at 170,193. Dr Arif said backlog and unverified data don’t come under the category of fake certificates. Zahid Mirokhel said the issue of backlog will be resolved, but unverified data poses a huge question mark on transparency of the process.

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