The Centre on Wednesday recorded nearly 1.33 crore registrations for coronavirus vaccination from May 1.
Minutes after the registration opened up for all adults in India at 4 pm on Wednesday, the government’s CoWin portal and the Aarogya Setu app crashed for users across the country. Many complained that the site was not responsive, while others said they were not receiving a one-time password to finish the verification process.
At 4.35 pm, Aarogya Setu, the central government’s contact-tracing app to contain coronavirus, said the CoWin portal was working. “There was a minor glitch at 4 pm that was fixed,” it said. But some social media users flagged that the website and app were still not responsive. Others said that despite completing the registration, they were unable to book a slot for vaccination.
But after these initial glitches, more than 35 lakh people registered in the first hour, Aarogya Setu said in a tweet.
So far, there have been a total of 14,80,67,697 registrations on Co-Win. However, a major portion of this, over 9.33 crore, were walk-in registrations. Only 2.91 crore registrations were made online on Co-Win.
The Centre has made it mandatory for those between 18 and 45 years to register themselves on the CoWin portal or the Aarogya Setu app for vaccination. It has said that there will be no facility for walk-in registrations for beneficiaries in this age group.
On April 19, the Narendra Modi government announced a number of changes to India’s coronavirus vaccination drive, including making every adult eligible to get a shot starting May 1. At present, only those over 45 and frontline workers are being vaccinated against the disease.
On Wednesday, most users who were able to register themselves for the vaccine could not book a slot for vaccination. All slots were open only for those above 45. Some social media users said they could only view slots around July, but it was not at all available for most people in states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Bihar and Assam. In Ranchi, some people were able to book a slot sometime in the first two weeks of May, according to The Indian Express.
The newspaper cited a senior government official as saying that the Centre has consciously decided that it would be better to allow registrations now. “As and when states [and] private sector hospitals come on board, they will publish their vacancies on the platform and people will be able to [book an appointment],” the official said.
Those in the age bracket of 18-45 were expected to have to wait to get their shots anyway because India was dealing with shortages for the 45+ bracket even before the new policy was announced, and new supplies are not expected until June or even beyond. Some states announced that they were unlikely to begin vaccinating all adults from May 1 because of the unavailability of vaccines.
While Uttar Pradesh is expected to do a token drive on May 1, Madhya Pradesh will put off vaccinations for the 60+ and the 45+ age groups for two days to concentrate on the new age bracket on May 1, according to The Times of India.
States such as Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Goa, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh have placed orders for vaccines. But, they are not sure if they will get the stocks in time.
The Gujarat government has said it will announce vaccination schedules after it finds out when its stocks will arrive.
Similarly, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray said: “A vaccination schedule will be announced once planning for procurement of vaccine stocks is done.”
On Wednesday, the Mumbai civic body BMC said that the stock of Covid vaccine available in Mumbai had almost run out, according to ANI. “Due to this, 40 out of 73 private vaccination centres in Mumbai will not be vaccinating on Thursday, April 29, 2021,” it said. “The remaining 33 private vaccination centres are also available for limited vaccination. For this reason, the citizens who come there for the second dose will be vaccinated with priority and as long as there is a stock of vaccine.”
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that his state had only around 7 lakh vaccines left though it would require 40 lakh vaccines a week. The state is capable of vaccinating around 8 lakh people a day, but can only do 1 to 2 lakh these days because of the shortages, he said.
Unidentified officials from Maharashtra told The Indian Express that authorities were struggling to arrange for stocks for vaccinating adults up to 44 years of age, which is the largest demographic group in the state.
The Maharashtra government also wrote to the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech, but had received no official response till Monday. “Informally, we are in touch with all three manufacturers, including Dr Reddy’s Labs,” a state official told The Indian Express. “But the existing stock seems to have been booked by the Union government.” A third vaccine Sputnik V – developed in Russia and to be imported and sold in India by Dr Reddy’s Laboratories – has also been approved by the Indian drug regulator.
Chhattisgarh has ordered 25 lakh vaccines from Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India, the two manufacturers in India who make Covaxin and Covishield. But Bharat Biotech said that it can deliver Covaxin vaccines only by the end of July, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said, according to The Indian Express.
“We are capable of vaccinating 3 lakh people a day. If the Centre doesn’t give us the vaccine, then how can we function,” Baghel asked. “We are ready with our road map, we can start even if they inform us a couple of days before May 1.”
In West Bengal, the state promised to help beneficiaries. “It has come to the notice of the Government of West Bengal that about one lakh recipients of the first doses of vaccines are anxiously waiting for their second doses in different private sectors hospitals where they had received the first doses,” the state said.
On Friday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had sought 20 lakh doses of the vaccine from the central government. He had said that 2 lakh Covishield doses were expected by Thursday and the state had 5.6 lakh doses, which was expected to get over by Wednesday.
Rajasthan has 3.25 crore persons who fall in this age group, Health Minister Raghu Sharma said, adding: “We need around 7 crore doses.” He said that Rajasthan had sought 3.75 crore vaccines from Serum Institute. However, the company said that it would only complete the order that was placed by the Centre till May 15.
Punjab has also reportedly written to the Serum Instityte but not received any response yet.
The Centre has failed to supply adequate dosages of vaccines, said Odisha Public Health Director Bijay Panigrahi, according to The Indian Express. “At present, we have a stock of 1.23 lakh doses of Covishield and 3.56 lakh doses of Covaxin. Due to the unavailability, the phase III vaccination drive is likely to be delayed,” Panigrahi said.
Health Minister Satyendar Jain also said that Delhi would not begin vaccinating those aged 18-44 now because the Capital does not have enough shots. “We have made requests to the company regarding vaccines, we will tell you when it comes,” he told ANI.
- Whose intellectual property is Bharat Biotech’s publicly funded Covaxin? India deserves an answer
- ‘Unilateral decision’: States are unhappy with Modi’s decision to pass buck on vaccine costs
At least seven states – Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Odisha and Telangana – witnessed a shortage of vaccines earlier this month. The burden is likely to increase with around 60 crore more citizens in the 18-45 age group becoming eligible for the shots in the third phase.
Under the new vaccination policy that will come into effect on May 1, 50% of the shots manufactured will be earmarked for the Centre. This quota will be used to inoculate priority groups who were already eligible for the shots. So, only half of the vaccines manufactured from May 1 will have to be used to accommodate the 60 crore new beneficiaries.
Even if the projected ramped up capacity of manufacturers is taken into account, Serum Institute is expected to produce 10 crore doses of Covishield, Bharat Biotech will churn out one crore doses of Covaxin and Dr Reddy’s will make 40 lakh vials of Sputnik V by the month of June, according to The Times of India.
But this would not cover even the 40 crore people in the priority groups that the government had hoped to cover by August. The figure does not take into account the new beneficiaries.