Vaccine woes: citizens complain of glitches in government portal

People wait to get vaccinated at Dada Dev Hospital, Dwarka, on Friday.  

A week into the vaccination drive for people in the 18-44 age group, several of those trying to book appointments complained of glitches on the online portal. They alleged that the booking process was tedious with available slots “vanishing” within seconds.

Deepika Bhatia, a teacher said: “After months of waiting, when the government announced vaccines for the 18+ category, I thought that finally, it was our turn to feel safe. But soon I realised the ground reality. I have been trying to book an appointment since April 28 but all in vain. Vaccine day comes with more than the shot, including the frustration that one goes through while finding a centre. As soon as you hit ‘confirm’, they show a message that the centre is fully booked.”

She said one can’t do much when it comes to choosing a centre, which is nearby.

“Several of the ones which I tried booking were still restricting it to 45+ age group. Searching for slots using the CoWIN portal was cumbersome and so my second choice was sites developed by third parties even though one would still require to visit the government portal, which would always be fully booked within a fraction of a second,” she added.

Like Ms. Bhatia, several others said they turned to updates on social media and other mobile apps, which send alerts on slots opening up in each district.

Ayanti Ghosh, a public relations executive, said: “The government portal most of the times doesn’t show any empty slots as they vanish within seconds of opening up. One has to be really onto the website for hours to be able to get lucky to find a slot. After three days of such an intense process, a friend told me about this app where immediate alerts were being sent for empty slots. It was through those alerts that I managed to book a slot in one of the government schools.”

Describing the process as “infuriating,” Barathi Nakkeeran, a researcher, said: “I had been trying to book an appointment since the day the portal opened up. It was infuriating as, by the time we reached the page after logging in, the slots would get filled. After a few days, I got to know about links on social media that were updating the slots. It was through one such update that I finally managed to book a slot in a school in Chattarpur. However, there have even been instances when despite the notification, by the time we reached the page, the slots were all booked.”

Long distances covered

Due to the restrained availability of vaccines, people are also traveling across NCR in order to get the jab.

Andrew Lu, a 37-year-old media professional from Noida, said he was not able to find an available slot for the first dose of the vaccine in Noida or Gautam Budhha Nagar district.

“I was able to book a slot in Najafgarh — about 50km from where I live. My friend had informed me about the available slots at the place. The process was quite smooth and because of the lockdown, there was no traffic on the roads,” he said.

Gurugram resident Arani Chaudhuri said he had to travel to Lajpat Nagar for the vaccine due to the unavailability of slots in the vicinity.

“The only hurdle was that I had to travel to Lajpat Nagar. Other than that, the process was smooth. One has to keep checking the portal at various times of the day. I got a slot in the fourth attempt,” said Mr. Chaudhuri.

Anupama Dhawan from Indirapuram arranged a jab for her 80-year-old father at a Central government hospital in the Capital after she was turned away from a private hospital in Ghaziabad where she was scheduled to receive her first dose and her father his second.

“We had an appointment but when we reached according to our time slot we were asked to return because there was no stock available. Both of us then travelled to Delhi the next day and got vaccinated. The process was smooth,” she said.

Ghaziabad resident Sushant Kumar (name changed) said he had to ask his elder brother, a media professional, to “pull some strings”, so he could get his jab on time.

“My brother arranged a shot for me by making some requests; I went to a school in the New Delhi district and got vaccinated earlier this week. I am a bank employee and need to go to office on a daily using public transport and hence I wanted to get vaccinated as earlier as possible,” he said.

(With inputs from Damini Nath, Jaideep Deo Bhanj and Jatin Anand)

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 8:16:38 AM |

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