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COVID-19 India vaccination phase 3: Server glitch, endless wait for OTPs and other issues faced by millions who tried to register on D-day

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CoWin web portalCoWin web portalGovernment officially kickstarted country’s largest vaccination drive against the novel coronavirus on April 28.

Confusion, server glitches…more confusion, failure to receive OTP…some more confusion: these were just some of the challenges Indians faced today, as the central government officially kickstarted country’s largest vaccination drive against the novel coronavirus. To be completely fair, server glitches due to peak rise in traffic at around 4PM (as per government’s own record) were expected. And in its defence, the government also managed to fix these issues in time (again, as per its own record). But the real issue, that most Indians were probably not expecting to deal with in the middle of this life and death situation, was confusion.

But as it turned out, confusion trumped everything else ahead of D-day – from the get-go. The government initially had announced that it would open registrations for everyone above the age of 18 from April 28. Since that is a huge number, all this would happen online only (which meant no walk-ins were allowed) on the CoWin web portal and via the Aarogya Setu and UMANG mobile apps. Curiously, a time was not mentioned which led many to (rightly) believe registrations would commence midnight. Only, they did not.

It was only on the morning of April 28, the government confirmed that registrations would begin from 4PM.

At 4PM, as Indians started to cue up online to register, the server crashed. The CoWin web portal became inaccessible and even when it did come online, the experience remained choppy at best. One of the most common technical issue was failure to generate OTP.

Also Read | Coronavirus in India Live News

But even as Indians jumped through these hoops to register – and many successfully did – they started to get acquainted with other quirks. Things that were not communicated in advance. It came to light that even though anybody above the age of 18 could register for a COVID jab, appointments for vaccination (as and when that happens after May 1) were restricted to those above the age of 45 and therefore the whole pitch of government’s largest vaccination drive (for 18 and above) became sort of misleading.

The fact that “vaccination appointments for 18 plus will be possible once the state governments and private vaccination centres schedule vaccination sessions,” was communicated only after registrations had started.

Even for those above the age of 45, appointment may be subject to availability of vaccines.

“We will continue to announce as and when States come on board. We will provide information in public. The advice to people is that you log in and get an appointment only when you see vacancies available. The app will display the prices given by different entities. The platform will display which hospital is offering which vaccine and at what price. For private facilities, the type and price of the vaccines will be visible,” R S Sharma, CEO, National Health Authority was quoted by news agency ANI as saying.

Even though some states have complained about vaccine shortages, the government has said more than 1 crore doses were available with the states and that another 86 lakh doses would be made available in the next three days. States like Punjab, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan have hinted they may not start their vaccination programme from May 1.

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