A police personnel (L) stands at a closed entrance of the BYL Nair hospital after a technical problem suspended a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine drive in Mumbai on march 1, 2021.
A police personnel (L) stands at a closed entrance of the BYL Nair hospital after a technical problem suspended a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine drive in Mumbai on march 1, 2021.
(Photo by AFP)

Mumbai: Technical glitches cast a damper on the opening day of the third phase of the mass immunisation drive in the city, delaying the process for over three hours.

In this phase, citizens above 60 and those aged 45 years and above with comorbidities were supposed to get their first dose of the Covid vaccine, starting 9.30am on Monday. Upgrading to Co-Win 2.0 failed to weed out technical issues in the centralised app, resulting in a dismal start to the proceedings.

But despite all the starting trouble, more than 3,000 senior citizens and 45+ beneficiaries were vaccinated at the end of the day, with a turnout of 78 per cent of beneficiaries at the 44 vaccine centres across Mumbai. Of the 7,530 people who received their first doses on Monday, there were 1,982 in the general category, including 1,722 senior citizens and 260 between 45 and 60 years of age with comorbidities.

The BMC had shortlisted five civic-run facilities, including the Seven Hills Hospital and the NESCO Jumbo Covid Centre and three private hospitals for the drive. There was chaos at all the eight centres. The on-site registration process began at 9am, but the portal crashed, delaying the drive by as much as three hours at some of the centres and the inoculation could only start after 1pm.

Like clockwork, senior citizens had reached the entrance of the facilities at 9am sharp on Monday. While many of them were accompanied by their children and other family members, some came alone. They had hoped the process would be on a first-come-first-serve basis but it was more than three hours before they could be registered and get the vaccine. “We had reached the centres early morning but we realised the application was not working and we had to wait. Our names were then manually noted and we were asked to wait at the centre,” said 62-year-old Neha Sharma (name changed).

For the convenience of senior citizens, pre-registration was not mandatory and on-the-spot registration was available at the venues but most of the beneficiaries came pre-registered. However, preregistration was compulsory for healthcare workers (HCWs) and frontline workers (FLWs).

Sameer Nikam, 82, who had travelled to the NESCO facility all the way from Andheri east said that his grandson had done the registration for him from Bengaluru. “I came here before 9am, hoping to get the dose before afternoon, but I only got it after 130," Nikam told FPJ.

Gulshan Patel, 71, a retired entrepreneur from Juhu said, the process of online registration was swift but the management at the vaccination centre was very poor. “I wonder why they needed to register our credentials once again when we had already preregistered ourselves? They could have easily verified and let us be,” Patel said.

Both Nikam and Patel are diabetic, but said they suffered no side effects after receiving the dose.

At NESCO, there were three queues for beneficiaries. One for those pre-registered, the other for spot registration and the third for HCWs and FLWs. However, civic officials who were present said the footfall of the FLWs and HCWs was minimum.

The beneficiaries claimed that slots were available only at the NESCO facility. “We live in Vile Parle and the Seven Hills facility would have been closer but we were only able to get a slot at this facility,” said Rakesh Tandon, 53, a banker.

A Jogeshwari resident, Rashmi Mankan, reported a similar experience. “I had started booking slots since Sunday evening for my in-laws but couldn’t get a centre other than NESCO,” said Mankan.

Those who came pre-registered said, there was no time slot available on the website, which had led to overcrowding.

“If you are registering online, there are only two broad slots -morning and afternoon slots. Morning means before 12pm and afternoon means after 12 pm, other than this there were no slots,” said Mayank Shinde, 71, a retired banker.

“They should have generated time slots and online tokens, as they had been doing with frontline workers,” said Deepak Lokhande, 56, an entrepreneur.

At the facility, in all, there were fifteen units were set up for vaccination. However, the beneficiaries claimed, only five-six units were active.

“This is sheer mismanagement, most of the units are empty without any doctors and there is no volunteer to coordinate,” said Deepak Kumar, who had brought his parents for inoculation.

“There are no doctors and people are exhausted after waiting for more than four-six hours,” said another beneficiary, requesting anonymity.

Meanwhile, officials at the spot said, in an attempt to control crowds, no spot registrations were allowed after 2pm.

“They are just shouting out our slot numbers and not using any mic. The place is so crowded, many missed their chance as they failed to hear when it was their turn,” said Durgesh Repal, 62, who had come with his wife.

Beneficiaries also said the number of private vaccination facilities should be increased.

“This is sheer mismanagement, there is no crowd control, they should charge money now or else the problem will increase day by day,” felt Vinod Kapadia, a Juhu resident who had brought his parents to be inoculated.

While on-the-spot registrations began after 9am, actual vaccination could only begin after 11am because of a glitch. Officials are required to register details about the allotment before administering doses but were unable to complete this process, leading to the delay.

“There was a one-hour delay in the morning but now, the vaccination process is going on swiftly. By afternoon, over 100 senior citizens and persons with co-morbidities had registered. We have the capacity to vaccinate upto 1,000 senior citizens a day, in addition to medical personnel and other frontline workers,” said Dr Rajesh Dere, dean of the Covid centre at the BKC.

Pradeep Angre, the dean of the Mulund facility said that the server had started working around 11.45am. People had been able to register themselves on the CoWin app though, he informed.

Meanwhile, the Society for the Rehabilitation of Crippled Children (SRCC) at Haji Ali, was one of the centres requesting senior citizens to register themselves on the Co-Win app so that they would save time. However, those who had not pre-registered on the app were asked to give their names to be cross-verified on the portal. There will be two counters set up for the registration in the hospital premises.

Rupesh R Choubey, Facility Director, SRCC, said initially there was confusion because of the glitches in the app. So at the facility, the names of all those who were not registered on the application were noted. “Since morning, more than 100 beneficiaries have turned up to the centre but we are helpless, as the Co-Win 2.0 is not working properly, because of which we are not able to cross-verify the names. But after 1pm, we began the vaccination drive, as the problem was resolved but we could only vaccinate around 40 people, while the rest were asked to come tomorrow. We will give senior citizens who have registered on the Co-Win 2.0 application priority, despite having taken down names manually. We are also going to be calling each beneficiary and inform them about their slot,” he said.

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