/As vaccination drive hits Co-WIN bump, experts suggest a ‘hybrid’ solution, Health News, ET HealthWorld
As vaccination drive hits Co-WIN bump, experts suggest a ‘hybrid’ solution

As vaccination drive hits Co-WIN bump, experts suggest a ‘hybrid’ solution, Health News, ET HealthWorld

MUMBAI: On a single Sunday, India vaccinates roughly 17 crore children with polio drops. Even when the vaccine is an injection, coverage is in crores; in a drive against measles-mumps-rubella two years back, most big states vaccinated 1-2 crore kids in a month. But amid the Covid pandemic that’s claimed over 1.5 lakh lives, progress is slow — it has taken 39 days to inoculate 1.19 crore across the country. Experts blame over-reliance on the Co-Win app and the absence of a plan to manually reach out to potential recipients.

A senior doctor with a public hospital said the app should be scrapped and “we should go back to our offline method that has worked for decades”. Designed as the backbone of the Covid vaccination drive, Co-Win’s performance has been spotty. Problems vary from registration hitches to missing names and duplication, though when it does function, as a BMC officer put it, things are fine. “It has advantages. Thousands get auto-generated certificates. Imagine if these had to be physically printed and handed out,” he said.

For a vaccination day, CoWin has to be fed with names of beneficiaries before it throws up a list and even works out the number of sessions/booths needed. “The list, more often than not, has duplications. It has to be pruned, leading to fewer people getting messages,” said a BMC official. Dr Lalit Sankhe, nodal officer for vaccination at staterun JJ Hospital, said many glitches have been resolved,but some remain. “We have not managed to vaccinate several senior medicine professors who have been at the forefront of Covid treatment simply because their names have not got registered despite trying,” he said. There’s also an issue of transparency, underscored by RTIs filed by activists for information.

The Software Freedom Law Centre, India, found the app does not have a specific privacy policy. Many believe a ‘hybrid’ approach — allowing both online and offline work flows — may work better. Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of Maharashtra’s Covid task force, said if there are glitches, “we should allow people to work in offline mode as well”. Dr Giridhara Babu, an epidemiologist with the Public Health Foundation of India and a member of the Karnataka Covid task force, has a different viewpoint: Co-Win is only one of the problems. “Overreliance on Co-Win seems to be the main issue. It is similar to a logistics software, but public health needs to back it up with microplanning,” he said. In mass vaccination programmes, a bottom-up approach is used with the lowest rung delegated powers to carry out the drive. “With Covid-19, we are following a top-down approach that includes uploading a list planning schedules, etc. We need to back this up with microplanning,”’ he said.

Indeed, last Saturday, when Mumbai witnessed a 133% turnout, BMC officials said, the outcome was a result of micro-planning. “Even if public health infrastructure alone is used for vaccination, we can do three million vaccinations a day. That should take care of the elderly and those with comorbidities,” said Babu.