Long wait times, glitches in Co-WIN slow vaccine drive
People seeking coronavirus vaccines in several parts of the country reported long waiting times, and being turned away because doses had not arrived at centres even when they reached after an appointment, as glitches continued in the Co-WIN platform for the second day of the campaign opening up to eligible members of the general public.
Close to five million registrations — which officials estimate could include 10 million people — took place in the 24 hours after the government began accepting sign-ups and appointments from people above 60 and those older than 45 with specific medical conditions.
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“The Co-WIN platform can get very slow, which is why we turned away some appointments. I think it is not able to take the load. Most people prefer coming to the hospital directly for registration, which leads to overcrowding,” said a staff member at a private Delhi hospital, requesting not to be identified.
The hospital in question vaccinated close to 250 people on Tuesday but had to turn away several for lack of time. “We came here around 3pm but were told that due to the rush, our turn won’t come before 5pm. Now when we have returned at 5pm, they closed the doors,” said Anita Kapur, 65, who had come from Noida to get the shot at Max Hospital in Saket.
“I am not denying that people are facing difficulty in registering but it has been just a day since the facility was opened for general population so there will be logistical issues even regarding medicines, but it will all get streamlined in a few days,” said RS Sharma, chairman, empowered group on Covid Vaccination, during Union health ministry’s briefing on Tuesday.
“Scalability is of a concern to us. But from the supply-side hospitals will have to publish their time table and sessions, which means it is like a train time table wherein hospitals are like trains and citizens are making reservations. That is how the system is supposed to work, and state governments are coordinating with the hospitals; and supply of vaccines to them is happening through the state governments. We are encouraging them to provide vaccines to them and involve more private hospitals,” he said.
On Tuesday, there were close to 600,000 doses given, taking the total number of shots administered since January 16 (when the drive began) to 15.5 million.
Admitting that there were glitches, Sharma said, “…Unfortunately glitches are something which has become associated with IT systems in India. Initially, there were glitches in the first version of the programme, which were rectified.”
Close to 27,000 hospitals are currently providing Covid-19 vaccination across the country, including 12,500 hospitals in the private sector empaneled under Ayushman Bharat, Central Government Health Scheme and State health insurance scheme.
Sharma and Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan chaired a high-level review meeting with states, directing them to involve for Covid-19 vaccination even those private hospitals that are not empanelled under any government scheme to open more options for people if required.
States were also asked to utilise 100% capacities of private hospitals functioning as COVID Vaccination Centres (CVCs).
The Centre also asked states to ensure adequate quantity of vaccines was maintained in all hospitals both government and private during the entire duration, to enable them to function as CVCs in a smooth manner.