While tech experts in India are helping people hunt an online slot for scarce COVID-19 vaccine, some raise concern for fairness

Since the time the Indian government has opened up vaccination for all adults above the age of 18 from May 1, there exists a general uncertainty on whether Phase 3 of the vaccination programme will be rolled out successfully or not. Amid the complaints of vaccine shortage from many states, appointment slots for those between the age of 18 to 45 years are also scarce.

While the government has made it mandatory for people between the age of 18 to 45 years to register themselves on the CoWIN website, people are finding it difficult to register themselves on the site and crack an appointment slot in order for them to get vaccinated. But in a bid to streamline the process, coders in India are coming to the rescue of people by using a written software code and designed websites to help people book scarce COVID-19 vaccinations online.

Tech experts are using the publicly available coding of the CoWIN platform to create websites that post results every few minutes after running automated searches on the government website specially made for smoothening the vaccination process.

Some tech experts and coders have even created Google Sheets in order for people to get alerts over email whenever an appointment opens up for a particular age group within a prescribed pincode on the website. Apart from sending alerts over emails, certain Telegram groups have also been created where thousands of people are waiting for their turn.

Berty Thomas, a 35-year-old investment banker first automated a search in order to book a vaccine slot for himself. After his successful attempt to crack a slot, he then created a full-fledged website named “under45.in” which checks for slots and sends alerts to people between the age of 18 to 45 years, looking to get their first jab.

Thomas has also created multiple groups on Telegram for those who wish to receive alerts for their respective districts. So far, about 1,00,000 people in 60 Telegram groups in various cities have received the alerts.

Another website called “getjab.in” is created by Shyam Sunder that helps people know about the availability of vaccine slots via email alerts.  

While many tech experts are taking initiatives to help people get an appointment slot for vaccination, some believe that such techniques are puncturing the efficiency of CoWIN website. Apart from this, concerns are being raised that by using such techniques tech experts gain an unfair advantage over others in securing an appointment for vaccination. Also, using these methods would just endanger the chances of an equitable vaccine rollout.

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