India has suspended its Covid-19 vaccination for the next two days to fix glitches in an app calling people in for a jab, amid fears of a raging second wave of the pandemic in the country.
The suspension is another blow to India’s sluggish vaccination campaign, which is falling behind a target to reach 300 million people by July.
On Friday, just 24,650 healthcare and frontline workers were vaccinated. So far, India’s ill-equipped and overstretched public healthcare system has given just 13.4m jabs. While this makes it the fourth-highest ranked country in terms of total vaccine doses administered, the country's vast population means it has given just 0.8 doses per 100 people.
Most states offer Covid-19 jabs only a few days each week, and weekends have seen a drop-off in the vaccination drive due to the closure of public facilities.
The delays in the vaccine rollout, which began in mid-January, have been attributed primarily to glitches in the Co-Win app, as well as vaccine hesitancy.
A senior health official said: “The Co-Win portal was running slow and seriously hampering the vaccination programme. Around 80 per cent of the target beneficiaries do not receive the messages and so, don’t turn up on time.”
To remove the bottleneck in vaccine rollout, India has upgraded the digital platform and will be transitioning to Co-Win2 from March 1.
“On this Saturday and Sunday (27th and 28th Feb), the Co-Win digital platform will be transitioning from Co-Win1.0 to Co-Win 2.0. In view of this, Covid-19 vaccination sessions will not be scheduled during these two days,” said a statement issued by India’s Health Ministry.
The government has turned to private hospitals to allow them to provide jabs to those who can pay for them. People aged above 60 and those over 45 years with comorbidities will receive the jab from March 1.
India’s Information and Broadcasting minister, Prakash Javadekar, said the government was in discussion with vaccine manufacturers and private hospitals regarding the pricing of the vaccines. It would be announced in the next three to four days, Mr Javadekar said.
With swelling numbers of new infections, public health experts have cautioned that India may be on the verge of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Goa chapter of the Indian Medical Association has urged the government to speed up the Covid-19 vaccination drive to prevent a second wave of infection. India reported 16,577 coronavirus infections and 120 deaths in the last 24 hours, above the average of less than 10,000 cases and 100 deaths every day until last month.
More than 86.18 per cent of the new cases are from six states, with Maharashtra and Kerala continuing to be the hotspots.
The total tally of Covid-19 cases in India on Friday climbed to more than 11 million, and the death toll reached 156,861.
The country is currently in the second spot in terms of Covid-19 cases in the world after the United States, which has reported more than 28 million cases.
A recent report from the Centre for Science and Environment, State of the Environment 2021, warned that India faces a "pandemic generation", with 375 million children under 14 years old likely to suffer long-lasting impacts from Covid-19. These range from being underweight to an increased risk of stunting and higher child mortality, through to losses in education and work productivity.
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