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People may get to pick time, location for Covid vaccination

Officials say tweaks being made to Co-WIN platform; govt to open options for sign-ups, will disclose comorbidity verification protocol.
A health worker receives a Covishield coronavirus vaccine jab at Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi. (Amal KS/ Hindustan Times)
Updated on Jan 27, 2021 04:36 AM IST
ByRhythma Kaul, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Members of the general public who will be first in line to get coronavirus vaccines may be able to choose when and at which immunisation centre they will take their shots, according to officials aware of preparations for the next phase of the drive which, they said, will need modifications of the Co-WIN platform that is basis for managing the vaccination drive.

This group includes approximately 270 million people above the age of 50 as well as younger people with comorbid conditions associated with higher risk from Covid-19.

As on Monday, India has vaccinated 2 million health care workers – who are first in the priority list. Next in line are essential service staff such as sanitation workers, police and the armed forces, before the first of the general public begins to get doses.

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An official said the database of the first two groups -- with roughly 30 million people -- have been prepared.

“Going forward, we plan to make it a people/citizen centric system, wherein they self-register and should be able to choose the centre, time and day. Since, it will largely be elderly population that will line up for vaccination, government wants to make it as convenient for them as possible,” said this person, who is involved in the process, requesting not to be named.

“It will be similar to making online bookings, for example the way it is done for a film where a person can choose the slot. Why should a person need to travel too far to get a Covid-19 vaccine shot, or end up with a slot or date that is not suitable? The process will be made easier for them,” the official added.

The steps are likely to be crucial since the vaccination drive has been short of expected numbers, partly because of strong hesitancy among people.

As on Monday, only about 55 people showed up on average during each vaccination session for which 100 are invited.

While the government is yet to zero-in on the methods of self-registration, it is likely to include options that are accessible to all.

“Various platforms could be opened for the purpose of self-registration such as the Aarogya Setu app, a group of helplines, through IVRS for those with a feature phone, and people will even have the option of using a web portal to pick a slot.” the first official said.

“For areas where internet connectivity is an issue, we could also leave the option of seeking an appointment for vaccination through walk-ins at your nearest health or other identified facilities. All these modalities are currently being worked out,” the official added.

Dr RS Sharma, the chairman of the empowered group on Covid vaccination, confirmed the plans.

“It will be sort of an appointment system that is in the process of getting designed at the moment,” he said.

Nearly six in 10 (62%) of all infections of Covid-19 in India have been among people below the age of 45 years, but patients above 45 years of age account for almost 9 in 10 (87%) of all deaths, recent government data has shown, making older people the most vulnerable group.

Another team of experts is working on the criteria for vaccination eligibility among those who suffer from comorbidities.

The conditions that are being considered as exacerbating the risk from Covid-19 include diabetes, hypertension, cancers, heart, lung, kidney, or liver diseases.

“It is still being looked at who can certify this target population; whether to look for endorsement from a private physician, district hospital or a medical college. All that is being deliberated upon and soon will be made public,” said a second official aware of the process, asking not to be named.

The government has targeted completing vaccinations of people in these high-risk groups by August .

Two Covid-19 vaccines are currently in use in India in a restricted manner — Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India as Covishield.

“It is good that they started with health care workers as it will give them the exact idea of how well the app is functioning, and what improvisations are required, before they decide to scale it up. All the glitches will be sorted before they proceed to next level, which is a huge number,” said Dr MC Misra, former director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), in the national capital.

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