Health workers take a selfie during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech on the first day of a pan-India Covid-19 vaccination drive, at Rajawadi Hospital in Mumbai on Saturday. (Satish Bate/HT Photo)
Health workers take a selfie during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech on the first day of a pan-India Covid-19 vaccination drive, at Rajawadi Hospital in Mumbai on Saturday. (Satish Bate/HT Photo)

CoWIN loses: Maharashtra Covid vaccination drive on halt for 2 days

State officials say many could not come to get vaccinated as server slowed down, messages went late; will fix problems in 2 days; may resume drive on Tuesday.
By Surendra P Gangan, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 12:40 AM IST

The day Maharashtra kickstarted the Covid-19 immunisation programme, it was put on hold for two days to fix the glitches in the CoWIN app, even as the state vaccinated 18,338 or 64.34% of the targeted health workers on Saturday.

The next session will be held on Tuesday, according to the press release issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). “We expect the issue to be resolved by Sunday evening, but we wouldn’t be in position to reach out to the beneficiaries to resume it on Monday. As the government wants the data entry online only, we have decided to not resume it before Tuesday,” a health department official said.

Dr Ramaswami N, commissioner, family welfare, and director, National Health Mission, said, “As no vaccination sessions were planned on January 17 or 18, the question of cancellation does not arise. The sessions will be organised next week as per the Centre’s guidelines.”

Many districts faced technical glitches in the CoWIN app that resulted in communication lags. “The server went slow leading to difficulties in uploading the data at many centres. In Dhule district, all four centres faced the problem. We have now directed the vaccination teams to register the details offline and upload them subsequently. We had to use hard copies of data on beneficiaries,” said Dr PD Gandal, deputy director, health services, Nashik division.

“We couldn’t send out messages as the server slowed down on Friday night. The issue was resolved by 2am,” said Dr Pradeep Vyas, principal secretary, state health department.

Health officials also said the low turnout was a result of technical glitches in the app and concerns among beneficiaries. Barring 10 cases of mild reaction in some districts, no major side effects or Adverse Effect Following Immunisation (AEFI) were reported in the state.

The state is holding four sessions a week and is expected to complete about 4.4 lakh health care workers in 15 sessions over 28 days. The stock of 963,000 vials could cover about 4.4 lakh health workers with two doses each.

Based on the allotted stock, the state plans to carry out the immunisation drive over the next 28 days and will demand additional stock at the earliest. Mumbai vaccinated 48.5% – 1,926 of 4,000 – of the people planned, Pune (1,795 of 3,100), Nagpur (776 of 1,200), Nashik (745 of 1,300) and Aurangabad (647 of 1,000). Districts like Hingoli (100%), Beed (90.2%) and Buldhana (95.83%) saw a high percentage of inoculation. “We always expect 100% turnout, but technical glitches in the app led to delay in sending alerts to the beneficiaries about their turn, which in turn hit the response. We have sent messages to the beneficiaries only a day prior to the vaccination, which may be why many couldn’t make it,” said Dr DN Patil, state immunisation officer.

According to another official from the state health department, some beneficiaries are in ‘wait and watch’ mindset and are expected to turn up gauging the results of the vaccination in the initial days. In six districts of Nagpur division, the turnout percentage was 63%, while in four districts of Latur division it was 68%. “We will accommodate the beneficiaries left out today in the next few days. The response from the beneficiaries will increase from next week,” said Dr Sanjay Jaiswal, deputy director, health services, Nagpur division.

Thane district saw 79.39% vaccination, as 1,826 of the 2,300 beneficiaries got vaccinated in 23 centres. The district saw no major glitches apart from a server error. Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation was the only corporation in the city to complete 100% vaccination target, as the drive began on time and ended on time with no chaos. Mira-Bhayander reported 89.33%, Thane city 88.25%, Navi Mumbai 75.75%, Ulhasnagar 71%, Thane rural 69.40% and Bhiwandi Nizampur 61.33%.

Abhijeet Bangar, NMMC commissioner, said the number is likely to increase in the coming days. Thane district collector Rajesh Narvekar inaugurated the vaccination drive in the city. “This is a day of pride and happiness,” said Narvekar.

Dr Patil said very few complained of giddiness, nausea and inflammation. “We vaccinated 2.92 crore people during our measles and rubella mass vaccination drive last year. The backup machinery to take care of any reaction was ready for any major reaction, but no beneficiary was required to be admitted,” he said.

When asked about the short supply of the vaccines, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said it was the responsibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that all states get proportionate number of vaccines. “I do not want to politicise it,” he said.

Thackeray, who inaugurated the drive at BKC in Mumbai at 11.30am on Saturday, said there was no clarity if common people will get free vaccine as the call has to be taken by the Centre.

“People are happy to get inoculated and have been waiting for their turn. I am sure once the prioritised groups are vaccinated in next three-four months, the vaccine will be available for even general public. We are also going to ask for the additional stock of the vaccines during our video conference with Union health minister Harsh Vardhan,” said Rajesh Tope, state health minister.

Dr Padmaja Saraf was the first beneficiary at the Jalna district hospital. She said, “After having gone through very challenging times at the hospital when the pandemic was at the peak, I am happy that the vaccine is now available. The vaccine is very safe and everybody should go for it whenever available,” she said.

Meanwhile, the state reported 2,910 cases and 52 deaths on Saturday, taking the tally to 1,987,678 and toll to 50,388. Mumbai clocked 571 cases and 8 new deaths taking the tally to 3,02,226 and toll to 11,237. Maharashtra has 51,965 active patients, with the highest number of patients in Pune, 15,887, followed by 9,608 in Thane and 6,966 in Mumbai. The state’s recovery rate stands at 94.79% as 18,84,127 patients have been recovered. The state’s case fatality rate stands at 2.54%.

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