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Vaccination drive to resume tomorrow in Maharashtra, with or without Co-WIN

The Maharashtra government is set to restart the Covid-19 vaccination drive in the state from Tuesday.

The state had decided to keep the drive, which began on Saturday, in abeyance for a couple of days following widespread complaints about the Co-WIN (Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network) app, a software designed for real-time registration of data of people who are vaccinated.

However, with the Union government directing all states that the entire process needs to resume and can continue without Co-WIN software in regions where there are technical glitches, the Maharashtra government said that it will resume the drive from Tuesday.

Across the state, 28,500 healthcare workers will be shortlisted for vaccination on Tuesday. The number also includes 10,200 healthcare workers who had missed their jab on January 16.

The drive will be undertaken on four days of the week. “It will mostly be Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. But that can change if needed. If the Co-WIN text message system does not work, we will call up beneficiaries to inform them a day or two in advance,” said Dr D N Patil, state immunisation officer.

Co-Win is a digital platform to monitor vaccine distribution and record data of all beneficiaries. On the first day of the vaccine rollout on Saturday, the application did not work in many of the 285 centres across Maharashtra. In some centres, the server could not connect to it, and in some, the vaccination “session list” did not open.

In several centres, the software failed to deliver text messages to beneficiaries to intimate them about their centres and the time of vaccination. Most centres were forced to conduct vaccination without Co-WIN.

D N Patil said all data of beneficiaries was noted in physical copies or spreadsheets and will be uploaded on Co-WIN over the next two days.

Maharashtra had shortlisted 28,500 doctors, nurses, paramedics, ASHAs and auxiliary nurse midwives for the January 16 vaccination drive. Only 18,328 (64.3 per cent) turned up. Those who missed the shot will be reminded thrice before their name is removed from the list.

On Tuesday, districts will have the choice to go completely offline if Co-WIN does not work. A list of beneficiaries will be drawn up centre-wise and distributed to them. “Names can be verified from the list and vaccine shots can be given. If Co-WIN works, this process will be online,” D N Patil said.

On Saturday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had to call each of the 4,000 beneficiaries in Mumbai to request them to come for vaccination when the text message system of Co-Win failed.

Civic officials said they may have to manually choose another 4,000 beneficiaries for the second round and call them up if the software fails to work again. “The names will be distributed to 24 ward war rooms. From there, calls will be made to beneficiaries,” an official said.

Meanwhile, to overcome hesitancy over Covaxin, which is still undergoing Phase III trial, Dr Lalit Sankhe – in charge of Covaxin vaccination at JJ hospital in Mumbai – said video conferencing may be done to discuss this issue and brainstorm solutions.

“The Union ministry was informed about the low turnout for Covaxin. Several heads of departments had turned up for vaccination in our centre. This may encourage others. We are hopeful of a better turnout in the next round,” Sankhe said.

State officials, too, believe that two factors led to poor turnout for the overall vaccination drive – weekend and beneficiaries being intimated about the vaccine schedule at the last minute.

“These are new vaccines with no prior experience to account for. Taking this into account, 64 per cent turnout is okay. Let us see how many people turn up on Tuesday,” said Dr Archana Patil, Director (Family Welfare) of Directorate of Health Services and in charge of overall Covid treatment and vaccination in the state.

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