Booking a vaccination slot a Herculean task for 18+ in Himachal

Even those with high-speed internet and fastest fingers are at their wits’ end as there is no guarantee that they will get a spot;
 (Image for representational purpose)
(Image for representational purpose)
Published on May 24, 2021 01:22 AM IST
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By, Dharamshala

If you are in the age group of 18-44 years and waiting to get vaccinated in Himachal, get ready for a long haul. Booking a vaccination slot in the state is no less than hitting a jackpot.

Even those with high-speed internet and fastest fingers are at their wits’ end as there is no guarantee that they will get a spot. Slots open for a fraction of second, one blink and they are gone.

“I was on two devices with high-speed internet, but still didn’t get a slot,” said Varun Chaudhary, who lives in Shimla.

“The CoWIN portal always displayed slot booked on the vaccination centre in and around Shimla from 2pm to 3.30pm. The official time of slot opening was 2.30pm but it showed no vacancy,” he complained.

“It seems like a big scam. The slots are already booked before they are uploaded on the portal,” he alleged.

Due to shortage of vaccine, the state government has fixed two days, Monday and Thursday, in a week for vaccination of people in the 18-44 age group. Vaccination began on May 17 and till date, 40,353 people have been given the jab while the estimated population in this range is more than 31 lakh.

To start with, the state government had received more than 1.7 lakh doses for the vaccination of the people in this age group.

The slots are updated on the website two days before the vaccination schedule.

Abhay Karki, a youth from Dharamshala, said he and his brother were trying to book a slot on two separate computers.

“It opened for a while and till we submitted the details, all the slots were taken. This has happened not once but twice. If there was shortage of vaccines, the government should have started the drive later instead of creating a chaos,” he said.

This is not the only problem with the process. In rural belts, people have limited access to the internet and those living in urban areas have been hogging the vaccination slots.

Vinod Kumar, a resident of a rural area in Kangra district, said many people from the other states got jabbed at the vaccination centre near his village.

He said village people were not tech-savvy and till they filled the form, all slots were booked.

There were also reports of some tourists getting jabbed at vaccination centres in Lahaul and Spiti while a Haryana man was seen getting the shot at Dharamshala vaccination centre. Another member of his family had booked a vaccination slot near Nurpur.

Prajwal Busta, a Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha (BJYM) leader, said if anyone from other state worked here or lived here for long, he/she should definitely get the vaccine.

“But, if tourists are hogging the slots, then it’s wrong. If they can travel this far for getting jabbed, then they can also pay for the vaccine. Bona fide address proof should be made mandatory for booking slots,” she added.

She said the state government had done a good job in vaccinating its people, but some of them were taking advantage of “flaws in the system”.

Matter taken up with Centre

Meanwhile, Dr Nipun Jindal, director of National Health Mission (NHM), said problems being faced by people were in notice of authorities.

“We have taken up the matter with the Union health ministry and also written to them seeking a solution,” he said.

“We have asked the Centre to allow us book certain percentage of slots offline like it is being done in Lahaul and Spiti where 80% slots are not being booked on web,” he added.


    Naresh K Thakur is a staff reporter in Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. Based at Dharamshala, he covers Tibetan affairs, local politics and environmental issues.

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