“Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photograph and message on vaccination certificates reinforce the need for creating awareness about the importance of following COVID-19-appropriate behavior even after vaccination, in larger public interest, and hence feature on the certificate”, is what the government has argued when it was questioned by Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kumar Ketkar in the Parliament on whether printing photographs of the Prime Minister on the certificate of COVID-19 vaccination was compulsory or important.
The Minister of State for Health, Bharati Pravin Pawar in her response further added that it is the “moral and ethical responsibility of the government” to ensure that such critical messages are disseminated to people “in the most effective manner”.
The minister also stressed that the format of Covid-19 vaccination certificates, which are being issued to vaccinated beneficiaries through Co-WIN, are standardized and conform to the evolving WHO guidance on verifiable vaccination certificates.
Ketkar, during the Parliament session, had also asked if any government before has made it necessary or compulsory to print the photograph of then Prime Ministers on any vaccine certificate such as polio or smallpox. The government has not issued a response to this question yet.
The Modi Government had come under severe fire over the move both by citizens and the Opposition. Following this. several State Governments issued vaccine certificates with the State Chief Ministers’ photos on them when states were procuring vaccines directly from the Centre.
India’s Covid-19 vaccination certificates are in stark contrast to those of US, Israel and some other countries that have no sign or image of any political leader on them.
Many have argued that if anyone’s photo should be put on the Certificate, it should be that of the medical scientists who led to the development of the vaccine. While the Government is definitely responsible and accountable for providing logistical support for a smooth vaccination drive, how much that justifies printing PM Modi’s photo on the certificate is up for debate.
Another irony to note is that the PM’s photo is one without him wearing a mask, while the purpose of the message is to apparently encourage citizens to follow Covid-19 appropriate behavior even after vaccination, which includes mask usage among others.
On the surface, a picture of a political leader on the vaccination certificate against a pandemic that the world is fighting together does appear to be an eccentric move aimed at garnering votes and feeding the public sentiment.