Only two days after spreading misleading news about India exporting 9,300 MT of oxygen and insinuating that the shortage of oxygen in India is due to that fact, Moneycontrol has now resorted to spreading misleading news again, this time about the pricing of COVID-19 vaccinations by Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute.
In a report published on the 21st of April 2021, Moneycontrol headlined their article saying, “COVID-19 vaccines to cost Rs 1,000 in private market, Bharat Biotech wants ‘maximum’ price for Covaxin”.
The insinuation by the headline itself is rather clear. That Bharat Biotech wants a “maximum” price for its COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, so as to maximise its profits in the middle of a raging pandemic where thousands are losing their lives. In the same headline, Moneycontrol clubs a source-based rumour along with their misleading claim of Bharat Biotech wanting to maximise profit. Moneycontrol in their headline also claims that COVID-19 vaccines are to cost Rs 1,000 in the private market.
The sum total of both these claims was designed to give the impression that in the midst of a pandemic, Bharat Biotech is essentially indulging in vulturism and is trying its best to profit from a tragedy.
However, the truth could be far from it.
In the article by Moneycontrol itself, it is revealed that both these claims were clubbed maliciously to present an extremely skewed picture of reality. The headline and the insinuation it makes needs to be tackled in two separate parts.
Are vaccines to cost Rs 1,000 in the private market as claimed by Moneycontrol in the first part of its headline? One look at the Moneycontrol article itself reveals just how misleading that claim could be, especially in an atmosphere where panic is running high.
In the article itself, it is evident that the price of the vaccine being Rs 1,000 is purely speculative and Moneycontrol had no basis to claim that as a certainty in the article. Further, even the “source” that Moneycontrol spoke to actually says that ‘nothing is concrete’. One then wonders on what basis did Moneycontrol put that claim in their headline.
As for the second claim of Bharat Biotech wanting to ‘maximise price’ for Covaxin, the article shows just how malicious that misleading headline is.
This claim is based on a LiveMint report where the statement of Bharat Biotech is published. Moneycontrol too cites the LiveMint report, however, they cherrypicked half the sentence to craft a misleading headline.
The Moneycontrol article that quoted LiveMint categorically quoted Dr Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director, Bharat Biotech International Ltd, maker of Covaxin, saying that they would like the maximum price to “recover cost”.
What they also not mention is that the LiveMint report states how Dr Ella said that Bharat Biotech had not asked the government for any money for the trials or any advances for increasing vaccine manufacturing capacity.
It is pertinent to note here that demanding a maximum price for the vaccine just as is, giving the impression that Bharat Biotech was trying to maximise profit and to say that they want the maximum price so they can recover their cost are two extremely different things.
To give a perspective about how a correct headline should have sounded like, one can sample the LiveMint headline.
Simply put, Moneycontrol wanted to sensationalise their headline to give the impression that Bharat Biotech is profiting off the nation’s misery and death and therefore, hardly bothered about accuracy of the headline itself.
This comes only 2 days after Moneycontrol spread panic with a misleading report regarding the export of oxygen.
Several media outlets had made misleading assertions that India had exported a large quantity of medical oxygen from January 2021 to March 2021. The reports by mainstream media organisations, including Moneycontrol, News 18 and NDTV, suggested that India had exported nearly 9,300 MT of oxygen in the financial year ending 31st March 2021. Some reports also claimed that India exported 9,884 MT of medical oxygen from January 2021 to March 2021. These reports were used and propagated by opposition leaders to attack the Modi govt, accusing the govt of exporting oxygen at a time the country is facing a shortage of the commodity.
The reports of oxygen exports were staunchly refuted by the Indian government, who termed the reports as misleading and asserted that malicious propaganda is being spread regarding the export of oxygen by India during the pandemic. It further slammed the media organisations who peddled the falsehoods, claiming that they had mistaken industrial oxygen for medicinal oxygen.
After the Indian government termed the reports of oxygen exports as misleading, Moneycontrol had deleted its original article and expressed regret for portraying a misleading picture of the industrial oxygen exports from India.