- India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive was launched on January 16 by PM Modi
- India has vaccinated over 41.2 lakh people using approved COVID-19 vaccines
- Digital platform Co-WIN has been launched for smooth vaccination drive
New Delhi: India’s first case of COVID-19 was reported in Kerala on January 30, 2020. Soon the virus spread across the country infecting over 1.07 crore people. But, after almost a year of fighting the deadly COVID-19 disease, on January 16, 2021, India launched its vaccination programme with two vaccines approved for restricted emergency use in the country. The two vaccines are AstraZeneca-Oxford University’s Covishield, which is being manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India and the indigenously made Bharat Biotech-ICMR’s Covaxin. With an aim to conduct the vaccination drive smoothly and to track and monitor beneficiaries the government has introduced an application and dashboard called Co-WIN (COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network). According to Dr RS Sharma, Chairman of the Empowered Group on Vaccinations, Co-WIN is the backbone of India’s vaccination drive. NDTV spoke to Dr Sharma to know all about the Co-WIN technology being used to track and register people for vaccinations.
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NDTV: How are your plans of the rollout going on right now?
Dr RS Sharma: The plans are going on fine. When the Prime Minister launched the nationwide rollout of vaccination on January 16, we had done about 2 lakh (1.91 lakh) vaccination on that day. It is ramping up slowly. There were initial glitches in the Co-WIN software but all those have been attended to and we are now going to slowly ramp up the programme.
NDTV: What were those glitches?
Dr RS Sharma: To define and to really describe those glitches may not be possible because they are glitches in the code but they were very minor ones. Somewhere related to flexibility in the sense suppose somebody is registered for tomorrow but comes today then we should be able to take that person who is to come tomorrow. Such flexibility issues were there and they have been attended to.
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NDTV: Going forward also, this app is going to be the backbone of India’s vaccination rollout?
Dr RS Sharma: Yes, the Co-WIN app is going to be the backbone. We are going to have a very robust digital infrastructure that will essentially record the vaccinations real time, will issue the certificate to the person, and will have a very robust authentication of the persons. We must remember that we will be giving the second dose of the vaccine also. Unless we have a record of each individual as to when he/she has been vaccinated first, when is the next date of vaccination due, and which vaccine was given in the first place because the same vaccine will be given the second time. All this will be necessary and we are going to have a flawless, robust, secured, and privacy preserving digital infrastructure.
NDTV: Right now, as Co-WIN app has been put to use and vaccines are being administered to healthcare workers, so you are in a way preparing for a much larger strategy that you will have to put in place once mass vaccination begins. In a way, you are also testing the system right now, correct?
Dr RS Sharma: You are very right. Currently, this is for the health workers and then, of course, we will have frontline workers together they make up for about 3 crore people. From that point onwards, when we open the system for those over the age of 50 and people with co-morbidities, this system which is for captive audience have to be expanded significantly. We have to devise a citizen centric approach to register people themselves, to figure out as to which place they would like to be vaccinated, what time, which date so essentially we have to create anytime, anywhere vaccination process and for that we will require a massive digital outlet. We will create multiple digital outlets from multiple channels through which you can register and that will be the best way to ensure that people get the facility and there will be information symmetry in some sense.
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NDTV: If Co-WIN app is the backbone then how do people get associated with this platform for vaccination considering there are internet and phone connectivity issues?
Dr RS Sharma: Co-WIN is one app that will be used by vaccination entities which means verifiers, vaccination, and others. Now, obviously, to register on the application or for the vaccination, we will not have this app only but other apps like Aarogya Setu. They will work like outlets and recipients of registration requests.
NDTV: Are we to believe that the mobile application Aarogya Setu which has penetrated quite will be the main platform for communication?
Dr RS Sharma: Not the main platform because Aarogya Setu is available only for people who have got smartphones and there are a large number of people in our country who do not have smartphones. Therefore, it is important that those people are also able to register themselves so that registration will be through portal, IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System), helpline. Essentially, we will create an inclusive process. Certainly, Aarogya Setu will be one of the ways to register. Similarly, Aarogya Setu and other outlets will also be used for storing the certificates. We are issuing certificates immediately after vaccination and that will get deposited on your Aarogya Setu app, digital locker, and we will provide a link to your phone so that you can download the certificate and this is also being given to people immediately after the vaccination.
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NDTV: What is the digital system in place to ensure the first and second doses being given are of the same vaccine?
Dr RS Sharma: There will be absolutely no challenges because generally, people will take their certificate to the vaccination site for the second dose. Secondly, as soon as you will enter an individual’s details in the system, it will throw up details on which vaccine they were given, what day they were given and therefore the site where vaccination is happening will give the same vaccine. Thirdly, when an individual registers or reserves the place then also the system will know that this gentleman was given vaccine X and therefore they will open those places where vaccine X is being given. Essentially, there cannot be any error. There are multiple channels so there is no single point of failure in some sense.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.