File photo: A nurse prepares a syringe with Covid-19 vaccine. (AP)
File photo: A nurse prepares a syringe with Covid-19 vaccine. (AP)

Maharashtra suspends Covid-19 vaccine drive till Jan 18 due to CoWIN app glitch

  • Technical glitches in CoWIN app triggered communication lag and concerns among the beneficiaries.
By Surendra P Gangan | Edited by Sparshita Saxena
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 11:10 PM IST

Against the target of vaccinating 28,500 health workers on the day of the launch of the Covid-19 drive, 64.34 per cent or 18,338 health care workers were inoculated on Saturday in Maharashtra. Technical glitches in CoWIN app triggered communication lag and concerns among the beneficiaries which led to a relatively low turnout, state health officials said. Maharashtra has decided to begin the next session on Tuesday, January 19, after a gap of two days.

Barring about 10 cases of mild reaction among the beneficiaries in some of the districts, no major events of 'Adverse Effect Following Immunisation' (AEFI) were reported in the state. The state government, which has planned the immunisation drive according to the Centre allotted stock of vaccines over the next 28 days, has stated that it will demand the additional stock at the earliest.

The highest number of immunisations was reported in Mumbai (1,926) against 4,000, though the percentage (48.15 per cent) was the lowest in the state. Districts that clocked high percentage of inoculation included Hingoli (100 per cent ), Beed (90.2 per cent), Buldhana (95.83 per cent).

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“We always expect 100 per cent turnout, but because of the technical glitches in the CoWIN app which resulted in the late alerts to the beneficiaries about their turn for inoculation, there was a drop in response. We have been sending the messages to the beneficiaries a day prior to the vaccination and it too may be the reason for a low turnout,” said Dr DN Patil, state immunisation officer.

According to another official from the state health department, some of the beneficiaries are in ‘wait and watch’ mindset and are expected to turn up gauging the results of the vaccination in initial days. With very few cases of Adverse Effect Following Immunisation (AEFI), we expect the remaining beneficiaries to turn up over the next few days, he added.

In six districts of Nagpur division, the turnout percentage was 63, while in four districts of Latur division it was 68 per cent. “We will accommodate the beneficiaries left out today to accommodate in next few days. The response from the beneficiaries will increase from next week,” said Dr Sanjay Jaiswal, deputy director, health services, Nagpur division.

Also read: Here is what health workers said after getting Covid-19 shots

Thane District saw 75.65 per cent vaccination as 1,740 beneficiaries got vaccinated out of 2,300 in 23 centres. The district saw no major glitches apart from server error, while no side effects were reported. Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation was the only corporation in the city to complete the 100 per cent vaccination target, as the drive began on time and ended on time with no chaos. Mira Bhayander reported 89.33 per cent turnout, Thane city 88.25 per cent, Navi Mumbai 78 per cent, Ulhasnagar 71 per cent, Thane rural 69.40 per cent, and Bhiwandi Nizampur 61.33 per cent.

Abhijeet Bangar, NMMC commissioner, said that the number is likely to increase in the coming days.

Thane District Collector, Rajesh Narvekar, inaugurated the vaccination drive in the city on Saturday. "This is a day of pride and happiness, more because the vaccine will first be given to our Covid warriors who have put in a lot of hard work to keep the situation under control in the last few months," said Narvekar.

Dr Patil said that barring a few minor cases of reactions such as giddiness, nausea and inflammation, no major reaction was reported in the state. “Though the vaccine is new, we have machinery in place for the vaccination. We had vaccinated 2.92 crore people during our Measle and Rubella mass vaccination drive last year. The backup machinery to take care of any reaction was ready but no beneficiary required hospitalisation,” he said.

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Many districts faced technical glitches in the CoWIN app that resulted in a communication lag. The vaccination teams were instructed to the refer and feed the data offline. "The server slowed down leading difficulties in uploading the data at many centres in our division. In Dhule district, all four centres faced problems. We have now directed the vaccination teams to register the details offline and then upload it subsequently. We had to use hard copies of beneficiaries data as the online data was not available for reference due to the glitches," said Dr PD Gandal, deputy director, health services, Nashik Division.

“The server had slowed down owing to which the messages could not be sent out. The issue was resolved by 2 am after which the messages were sent to the beneficiaries,” said Dr Pradeep Vyas, principal secretary, state health department.

The state government has decided not to hold the vaccination drive for two days on Sunday and Monday to work on the loopholes in the system. From Tuesday, the drive will start in a full-fledged manner. One of the main reasons for halting is the dysfunctional centralised CoWIN app. The state government has provided excel sheets to districts officers to upload data but as per BMC sources, that is also not working.

Dr Vyas said that the next session will be held either from Monday or Tuesday once the issues related to the CoWIN app were discussed with the Centre.

The state is holding four sessions a week and is expected to vaccinate about 4.4 lakh healthcare workers in 15 sessions over 28 days. The stock of 9,83,000 vials could cover about 4.4 lakh health workers with two doses each.

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

Thackeray, who inaugurated the drive at BKC in Mumbai at 11.30 am on Saturday, said that there is no clarity if common people will get free vaccine as the call has to be taken by the Centre. “It is the call taken by the Centre over the charges towards vaccination, quota allotted to the states etc. There are 2-3 more vaccines expected to enter the market in the next few weeks after which there would be an adequate supply of the jab. I believe that the vaccine allocated to the states would increase after that,” he said.

State health minister said that there were no major incidents of Adverse Effect Following Immunisation (AEFI) reported. “People are happy to get inoculated and have been waiting for their turn. I am sure, once the prioritised groups are vaccinated in next 3-4 months, the vaccine will be available for the 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,” he said.

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 of Covid-19 and 52 deaths on Saturday taking the tally to 1,987,678 and death toll to 50,388. Mumbai clocked 571 cases and 8 new deaths taking the total of cases to 3,02,226 and toll to 11,237.

Maharashtra has 51,965 active Covid-19 patients with the highest number of patients in Pune, 15887, followed by 9,608 in Thane and 6,966 in Mumbai. State’s recovery rate stands at 94.79 per cent as 18,841,27 patients have recovered from the contagion so far. State’s case fatality rate is at 2.54 per cent.

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