Glitches in CoWin 2.0 hold up vaccination; Centre must upgrade app capacity to meet demand, say experts

There is confusion among citizens who are trying to register via the CoWin integration within Aarogya Setu app. According to the health ministry, there is no CoWin app registration for beneficiaries, only for administrators. Regular beneficiaries have to go via the self registration web portal mentioned above.

Nimish Sawant March 01, 2021 17:06:59 IST
Glitches in CoWin 2.0 hold up vaccination; Centre must upgrade app capacity to meet demand, say experts

Phase two of the COVID-19 vaccination drive started in India today (1 March) from 9 am onwards. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the first dose of the vaccination at AIIMS and appealed to citizens who are eligible to get their vaccination done. This phase will include healthcare and frontline workers but has also been scaled up to cover citizens over 60 years as well as those over 45 who have co-morbidities.

According to the Citizen Registration and Appointment for Vaccination user manual released by the government, citizens can register themselves for vaccinations along with three other members (with valid IDs).

The first step in the registration involves accessing the CoWin citizen self registration portal and registering a mobile number. The OTP, once receieved, needs to be used for logging in to schedule a vaccination appointment. The registration of beneficiaries involves entering personal details, uploading valid photo ID, name, gender, date of birth and comorbidities (wherever applicable and mandatory for those between 45-60). Those who have successfully taken the first dose after registration will get their next appointment automatically scheduled on the 29th day.

There is no provision to select your choice of vaccine at any stage. In fact, beneficiaries will only come to know which vaccine they will be administered after they enter the vaccination centre.

As the day began, many citizens started facing errors at the OTP stage itself, getting “Unexpected Error” as well as “Cowin server is facing issues. Please try later,” messages.

There is a bit of confusion among some citizens who are trying to register via the Cowin integration within the Aarogya Setu app. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there is no Cowin app registration for beneficiaries, only for administrators. Regular beneficiaries have to go via the self registration web portal mentioned above.

According to Ram Sevak Sharma, who is the head of the Cowin app, there are no glitches in the app neither related to scalability or bugs in the system. Speaking to NDTV, Sharma said that the issues were arising out of data entry problems and it had nothing to do with flaws on the software side.

A lot of people on Twitter would disagree though. While some are facing issues with the OTP, others are not able to find any slots for weeks after successfully registering.

“Issues with the Cowin app. The OTP isn’t coming and when I was able to register parents it logged me out and I wasn’t able to schedule appointments,” tweeted Boria Majumdar.

“Struggled to book a slot for my parents for #CoWIN. Hardly any slots available in Thane at 9:15 am. Not sure if it is a glitch or all Thane senior citizens registered within 15 mins,” said Mughda Deshpande.

Several others on Twitter had similar complaints:

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan vouched for the app and was quoted by news agency ANI as saying, "A certain number of people can walk-in at the centre. There are many people in the country who can't access or face difficulty in booking. All these systems will be streamlined within one week. As of now, there is no issue in the app (Co-WIN)."

Prasanth Sugathan, legal director at Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC) told Firstpost that these glitches are the same as the ones that were seen during phase one. SFLC advocates for digital privacy, software rights and analyse source codes for apps, services and government policies.

“It is interesting to note that the problems which arose in Phase 1 are still recurring. As of now, less than 1 percent of India's population has been vaccinated. In order to vaccinate the entire population, it is important to urgently upgrade CoWIN's infrastructure to meet high demand. It is not the first time we have seen delays in OTPs etc.,” said Sugathan stating that this is a common occurrence in all the major government apps such as Aarogya Setu, Public Grievance Portal and others.

At the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Nagpur, the second phase of vaccination drive was reportedly halted for a while as the CoWin registration was not functioning properly. The hospital has instead resorted to handing out tokens and said will be uploading the beneficiary information within the system.

The Indian Express reported that the B J Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital in Pune also faced technical glitches on Monday and several walk-in beneficiaries, who had registered on the new CoWin app to take the vaccine shot, were kept waiting. Officials said that the updated digital platform CoWin 2.0 was not able to verify the age of the beneficiaries in the age group 60 years and 45 years with comorbidities.This led to a brief halting of the process on Monday.

Those who tried registering immediately after 9 am (the start time of the registration portal), faced issues, but after studying multiple Twitter threads, it looks like the OTP issue has been resolved for some of these users when they tried again after a few hours.

This author tried registering his mobile number on the CoWin registration site, and promptly got an OTP with a rider that this OTP will only be valid for 10 minutes; after which the website takes you to the registration page.

Unlike the first phase though, this time the Centre has ensured there is help available beyond just online tools. Citizens who are facing difficulties registering themselves due to lack of technical expertise, can visit a Common Service Centre to get themselves registered. For those who don’t have access to a Common Service Centre, could do ‘walk-in’ registrations at the vaccination centres as long as they have their identity proof documents and there are open slots at these centres. The government has also activated a call-centre number, 1507, for answering any queries.

In order to assist citizens from finding their nearest Covid19 vaccination centres, Indian mapping company, MapMyIndia has added a new feature in their apps as well as the web portal to search for vaccination centres around your location. MapmyIndia’s Maps APIs and technologies have also been integrated into the official corona vaccine registration website and app.

“Users can use the MapmyIndia app and Maps portal to search and find nearby vaccine centres and get directions to them. They can also write reviews and report issues they face there - to help authorities get feedback and take corrective action, where required,” said Rohan Verma, CEO and Executive Director, MapmyIndia.

While the OTP issue seems to have been resolved, a lot of citizens are still finding issues with CoWin self registration process when it comes to finding open slots in government and private hospitals. There has been no communication from the MoHFW on this matter.

Updated Date:

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