The vaccination process in states across India had to be slowed down or halted over the weekend owing to glitches in the CoWin app.
The CoWin software, designed to be the digital nervecentre of India’s COVID-19 vaccination process, was found to be suffering delays in informing people about their vaccine dates, lagging in retrieving data and generating QR code certificates for vaccinated patients, and even system failures in some places.
The Maharashtra government late on Saturday, 16 January, suspended the COVID-19 vaccination drive in the state till Tuesday, 19 January, owing to technical glitches in the CoWin software. While the process wasn’t suspended, similar glitches were seen in Haryana, Assam and Punjab as well.
In a late night tweet, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Commissioner announced that the vaccination drive will remain suspended on 17 and 18 January.
Many Yet to Get Proper Vaccine Certificates
In Mumbai, several doctors and health workers who received their first vaccine shots on Saturday, 16 January told The Quint that they have only received small paper chits as the sole evidence of the vaccine shots.
According to the protocol, a QR code-based vaccination certificate will be issued after all the doses are given, and people can store it in their mobile phones.
Dr Russell Pinto, a Mumbai-based surgeon, said while the vaccination process at the Bandra-Kurla Complex was smooth, a number of questions still remain. “The only proof of the vaccination I have is a small chit which has my in time and out time. There isn’t any other way to prove I have got my first dose,” he told The Quint.
“The chit only has the in-time and out-time and no other information,” he added.
Dr Mehdi Kazerouni, a surgeon who was vaccinated at Nair Hospital, echoes the same concern. “I did not get any QR code or certificate to prove my vaccination. All I have is the chit,” he said. “The only proof is perhaps some photos of me getting vaccinated that have been published,” he added in jest.
Dr Pinto raises two other specific concerns which, he says, are yet to be addressed. “Without the CoWin app working properly, I have not got any proper communication about the the exact data of my second dose,” he said adding “while I have been told it is on 13 February, others have been asked to come on the 15th”.
Moreover, he has not been informed of the venue for the next dose and whether he would be able to visit a centre near his residence or whether he will have to travel all the way again to BKC.
Dr Sanjay Agarwala, medical director at Hinduja Hospital, said while there were “teething problems”, the process overall for the 250 health workers and staff of the hospital was smooth.
“In an exercise of this scale some teething problems will happen and while there were some glitches with CoWin, these will surely get fixed,” Dr Agarwala said.
Maharashtra CM Meeting on CoWin Glitches
Maharashtra, which had suspended the vaccine drive across all its 285 centres, resumed the process on Tuesday, 19 January.
On Monday, 18 January, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackerey held a review meeting with state chief secretary Sanjay Kumar, CM's principal advisor Ajoy Mehta, principal secretary to public health minister Dr Pradeep Vyas and others.
According to sources, district Collectors and divisional commissioners, who also attended the meeting, raised specific issues related to the CoWin app’s functioning and the glitches suffered on the first day of the vaccine drive.
Sources told The Quint that the issues raised included that of the app’s verification of individuals taking much longer than it should. There was significant lag and the app was hanging repeatedly. The whole verification process, which should take three minutes, was taking much longer, district Collectors said at the meeting.
Second, Collectors and health officials also pointed out that after the 30 minutes observation period following the jab, the app has to be updated and a certificate has to be generated which wasn’t happening.
Collectors asked if the process can be taken offline. The Quint has learnt that the communication from the Centre is that the vaccine registration process cannot be done offline and has to be online through CoWin. According to sources, the Centre has said all the work has to be done only through CoWin.
The state government officials were asked to prepare a detailed note of all the glitches and send that across to the Centre.
According to sources, for two days that the vaccination drive was stopped, officials had to upload all the offline data that was recorded. “They had taken printouts but over the last two days all the data that had to be collected manually had to be fed into the app and kept updated,” an official said.