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Long wait times and Co-WIN bugs stymie vaccine delivery.

In the first 24 hours after the government started accepting sign-ups, nearly five million people — estimated to number in the tens of millions — signed up.

As glitches continued in the Co-WIN platform for the second day of the campaign opening up to qualified members of the general public, people seeking coronavirus vaccines in many parts of the country reported long wait times and being turned away because doses had not arrived at centers even when they arrived after an appointment.

In the first 24 hours after the government started accepting sign-ups and appointments from people over 60 and those older than 45 with serious medical conditions, the government received nearly five million applications, which officials say may include ten million people.

“Because the Co-WIN platform may become really sluggish, we had to turn down some appointments. I assume it is unable to sustain the load. Most people tend to register at the hospital, which causes overcrowding,” said a staff member at a private Delhi hospital who did not want to be named.

On Tuesday, the hospital in question vaccinated nearly 250 patients but had to turn away a few due to a lack of time. “We arrived about 3 p.m. but were told that due to the high demand, our turn would not be until 5 p.m. They closed the doors when we returned at 5 p.m.,” said Anita Kapur, 65, who had traveled from Noida to get the shot at Max Hospital in Saket.

“I am not denying that people are having trouble registering, but it has only been a day since the facility was opened to the general public, so there will be logistical problems, even with medicines, but it will all be streamlined in a few days,” said RS Sharma, chairman of the empowered group on Covid Vaccination, during a briefing by the Union health ministry on Tuesday.

“Scalability is of concern to us. But from the supply-side hospitals will have to publish their timetable and sessions, which means it is like a train timetable wherein hospitals are like trains and citizens are making reservations. That is how the system is supposed to work, and state governments are coordinating with the hospitals, and the supply of vaccines to them is happening through the state governments. We are encouraging them to provide vaccines to them and involve more private hospitals,” he said.

On Tuesday, nearly 600,000 doses were administered, bringing the total number of shots given since the drive started on January 16 to 15.5 million.

“Unfortunately, bugs have become synonymous with IT systems in India,” Sharma said, acknowledging that there were problems. There were some bugs in the first iteration of the program, but they were fixed.”

Covid-19 vaccination is currently available in nearly 27,000 hospitals throughout the country, with 12,500 private hospitals empaneled under Ayushman Bharat, the Central Government Health Scheme, and the State Health Insurance Scheme.

Sharma and Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan convened a high-level review meeting with state officials, directing them to include private hospitals that are not associated with any government program in the Covid-19 vaccination program to give people more choices if needed.

States were also ordered to use the full capacity of private hospitals that operate as COVID Vaccination Centers (CVCs).

The Centre also requested states to ensure that a sufficient supply of vaccines was maintained in all hospitals, both public and private, during the time in order for them to act as CVCs smoothly.

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