OPINION | Online vaccine registration is discriminatory towards weaker sections
With vaccination for the 18-44 age group beginning in some parts of the country, registration on the government’s CoWin app has been made mandatory.
For classes of society who hold a smart-phone, have an internet connection, and hold a well-informed knowledge of how to go through the process, the struggle of getting a slot on the app – which often glitches – is growing bigger by the day due to the excessive competition and limited vaccines.
From registering on the website to waiting for the OTP to follow, even people with legitimate access are facing issues while trying to book a slot. For instance, the app simply conks off with the device not receiving an OTP to complete the registration process.
In a report issued by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) on March 9, it was explained that the rationale of the government behind the online registration was "to facilitate the entire process by making it more convenient for the citizen, as well as giving authorities a forward view of expected demand to plan accordingly and avoid over-crowding.”
The logic for this is binary as for the socio-economically weaker sections of society – quite a significant majority in India, the system of registration is discriminatory.
For the ease of the government to run a smooth process, it is an inherently flawed assumption that the technology-based system of vaccine registration is equitable for all. To expect a daily wage labourer to have a smartphone and purchase an internet connection, despite the burden of feeding a family, is insensitive.
More than that, the significant gap that is caused in the vaccination coverage is a primary cause of concern, barricading the nation from reaching its vaccination targets against COVID-19.
Technology however is not the only concern. Information, its dissemination and spread, is the other thing that has shied its face from the disadvantaged sections.
With the spread of misinformation and rumours with regards to the vaccination, the access to a system for clarifying and verifying information rests with a select few.
What is required?
Let’s get certain facts straight. The government’s IT infrastructure has not lived up to its expectations to be able to handle registrations for all of its masses. This is not even the first time a government-led app has crashed or faced server technical issues.
Therefore, for the general population who are unable to register online, governments should initiate walk-in facilities at hospitals and primary health care centres.
Till that extent, if the need for mandatory online registration is a non-negotiable, governments must empower community groups to facilitate this registration in an assisted manner.
Given that the second wave is much more deadly than the first one, the requirement of the time is to not use the demand-supply logic of a free market ideology – which anyway favours the one who has the maximum ability to compete.
Rather, if the goal is to vaccinate all the individuals of the country and wipe away the health emergency, then access points have to be made equitable.
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