Breaking News
0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your Investing.com experience. Save up to 40% More details

High-tech hunt for scarce COVID-19 vaccines in India raises fear for fairness

CoronavirusMay 05, 2021 07:18AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A policeman asks people who came to receive a dose of a coronavirus vaccine to leave as they stand outside the gate of a vaccination centre which was closed due to unavailability of the supply of COVID-19 vaccine, in Mumbai, India. REUTERS/Fra 2/3

By Aditya Kalra and Abhirup Roy

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian tech experts have written software code and designed websites to help people book scarce COVID-19 vaccinations online, raising concern about an unfair advantage for the tech savvy and jeopardising chances of an equitable vaccine rollout.

India has faced criticism for a slow vaccine campaign as it battles a second wave of coronavirus infections that is seeing about 350,000 new cases recorded every day. Only 2% of its 1.3 billion population have been fully immunized.

The government further opened up vaccination for adults from May 1 but registration on its CoWIN website is mandatory for those between the ages of 18 and 44. Slots are hard to get as demand far outstrips supply.

In a bid to streamline the process, computer experts have used the publicly available coding of the CoWIN platform to create websites that post results every few minutes after running automated searches on the government website.

Alerts are sent over email and routed to several Telegram app chat groups where thousands are waiting.

Berty Thomas, 35, automated a search to book himself a slot then created a website - under45.in - which checks for slots and sends alerts to about 100,000 people in 60 Telegram groups in various cities.

"I feel happy I'm able to use my skills to help people get vaccines," said Thomas, an investment banker based in the southern city of Chennai.

Shyam Sunder said his website - getjab.in - was notifying users by email when slots become available. Some 80,000 people from 400 districts across the country had registered with his site, he said.

But the technological workarounds are facing criticism from those who say they sacrifice the goal of vaccine equity in a country where many people - especially in rural areas - do not have the digital skills to join the online hunt.

"What we need: Free and equitable vaccination policy. What we have got: Techies making use of scripts to quickly book off the entirety of whatever little vaccine slots that open up," Twitter user Rakshith said.

R.S. Sharma, chairman of the government panel managing the CoWIN platform, told Reuters security measures were in place and there was no unfair use of the booking platform, which he said was getting 55,000 hits a second.

'STRESSFUL LOTTERY'

To book a slot, users of the CoWIN website need to log in with their mobile phone number and get a one-time password, before beginning their hunt of vaccine centres via an area code or district name.

In the short time that takes, slots often get snapped up.

But the automated alerts offer no guarantees. A Wednesday morning alert for some shots posted on one Telegram group for Bengaluru city had more than 100 comments, with only a few saying they succeeded, while others complained slots vanished in no time.

"It showed me 80 slots but it got booked before I could even get the OTP," said one user.

Authorities in the city of Mumbai have faced criticism for issuing a notice on Twitter on Tuesday telling people to get ready as limited slots were opening in minutes, wishing the hopeful "all the best".

"Playing a stressful lottery every day is in extremely bad taste," Twitter user Nanaki wrote.

In their defence, Mumbai authorities wrote on Twitter they were trying their best and just wanted to keep the communication "light".

Those in rural areas with limited or no access to high-speed internet or smartphones are bound to lose out.

In a village in the desert state of Rajasthan in the west, 43-year-old tailor Sewli Bhatti's said his family had no smartphone so he sought help from a teacher, who has been inundated with requests to register on the CoWIN website.

Driver Dhananali Bariha, 28, in the eastern state of Odisha, said he wanted to get vaccinated but was stumped by the online registration.

"I have no idea how to do it. I have not heard about CoWIN," he told Reuters.

High-tech hunt for scarce COVID-19 vaccines in India raises fear for fairness
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email