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Data withheld from WHO team probing COVID-19 origins in China: WHO Chief

GENEVA, March 30: Data was withheld from World Health Organization investigators who travelled to China to research the origins of the coronavirus epidemic, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday.

He made the comments to the agency's member states as a WHO-led team that spent four weeks in and around Wuhan, China, in January and February released its final report to the public.

China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to the WHO-led team, one of the team's investigators has already said, potentially complicating efforts to understand how the global pandemic began.

"In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data," Tedros said. "I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing."

The conclusions that the virus origins remains incomplete likely means that tensions over how the pandemic started – and whether China has helped or hinder efforts to find out, as the United States has alleged – will continue.

Although the team concluded a leak from a Wuhan-area laboratory was the least likely hypothesis for the virus that causes COVID-19, Tedros said, the matter requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions back to China.

"I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough," Tedros said. "Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions."

The WHO team's leader, Peter Ben Embarek, told a separate virtual press briefing on Tuesday that it was "perfectly possible" COVID-19 cases were circulating in November or October 2019 around Wuhan, potentially leading to the disease spreading abroad earlier than documented so far.

He said the team felt political pressure, including from outside China, but that he never was pressed to remove anything from its final report.

Rising Covid-19 cases, deaths a worrying trends: WHO chief

GENEVA, March 23: The recent increases in Covid-19 cases and deaths represent “truly worrying trends,” said World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who warned rich nations against hoarding vaccines.

“Cases are increasing in most regions,” Tedros said at a virtual event hosted by the World Trade Organization. “We continue to see the impact of variants, opening up societies and inequitable vaccine rollout.”

The rapid development of vaccines has given some hope, but rich countries are not sharing them equitably with poorer and developing nations, Tedros said. As transmission continues, more variants are likely to emerge, including those that could evade vaccines.

“The global access to vaccines are at risk because of the demands that high- and upper middle-income countries are putting on the global supply,” he said. “This is not just a moral outrage, it is also economically and epidemiologically self defeating.”

These trends could put the world back at “square one,” Tedros said. “As long as the virus continues to circulate anywhere, people will continue to die, trade and travel will continue to be disrupted and the economic recovery will be further delayed.”

Increase Covishield dose gap to 6-8 weeks: Indian Govt

NEW DELHI, March 22: The interval between two doses of Covishield vaccine should be increased to six-eight weeks, the Indian Government has said in a letter to state governments on March 22. At present, the two-dose vaccine is being administered four to six weeks apart.

Based on the feedback received from the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) and subsequently by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19(NEGVAC), it was decided to recommend an increase in the interval period between the two Covishield doses, the government said in a statement.

"Keeping the existing scientific evidence in view, it appears that protection is enhanced if the second dose of Covishield is administered between six to eight weeks, but not later than stipulated period of eight weeks," the Centre said.

The decision has been conveyed to states and union territories through a letter written by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.

"In view of the emerging scientific evidence, the interval between two doses of a specific COVID-19 vaccine ie Covishield, has been revisited by NTAGI and NEGVAC in its 20th meeting," the statement read. "This decision of revised time interval between two doses is applicable only to Covishield and not to Covaxin vaccine."

India has approved two vaccines for coronavirus. Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield is being manufactured at Pune's Serum Institute of India (SII). Covaxin has been developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech.

"The Union Health Secretary has urged the states and UTs to instruct the concerned officials accordingly to undertake necessary steps to widely disseminate the message of revised dosing interval among programme managers, vaccinators and recipients of Covishield vaccine," the government has said.

The decision to increase the interval period also comes in the backdrop of World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommendation to administer the two doses of AstraZeneca vaccine after a gap of eight to 12 weeks.

"In light of the observation that two-dose efficacy and immunogenicity increase with a longer interdose interval, WHO recommends an interval of 8 to 12 weeks between the doses. If the second dose is inadvertently administered less than 4 weeks after the first, the dose does not need to be repeated," the expert panel of the UN-linked body said.

Also, a recent study published in British medical journal Lancet said a 12-week or three-month interval before the second dose provides better protection.

The study said vaccine efficacy after the second dose was even higher at 81.3 percent in those with a dosing interval of 12 weeks or more versus 55.1 percent in those with an interval of less than six weeks.

With 43,846 Covid Cases, India Sees Biggest Daily Rise In Nearly 4 Months

NEW DELHI, March 21: India has added 43,846 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, setting another highest daily-high in nearly four months, amid a worrying surge in Covid cases that has prompted states like Punjab, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to consider return of school closures, restrictions on public gatherings and other virus-fighting measures, including lockdown in their worst-hit districts.

The daily rise in infections today was the highest recorded in 112 days, while the number of fatalities has risen to 1,59,755 with 197 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed. Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala, Karnataka and Gujarat are the five states that have recorded the highest single-day surge since yesterday, government data shows.

India recorded one lakh infections in just three days, the government said on Saturday after 40,953 new infections were reported in a day. On Friday, 39,726 new cases were logged while 35,871 fresh cases were recorded the previous day. India's COVID-19 tally currently stands at 1.15 crore (1,15,99,130).

Eight states including Maharashtra and Delhi are reporting a rising trajectory of new infections, the Health ministry said while giving the latest COVID-19 update on Saturday. Kerala, meanwhile, is showing a "consistently declining" trend, it said.

Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, accounts for 62 per cent of daily cases in the country, the government said. The western state on Saturday reported 27,126 daily coronavirus cases for the first time ever. Ninty-two people in the state died because of the illness in the last 24 hours, according to government data.

Meanwhile, Delhi added more than 800 coronavirus cases yesterday, crossing the number for the first time this year. The new 813 cases pushed the capital's infection tally past 6.47 lakh while two more fatalities took the number of deaths to 10,955, according to data shared by the health department.

In the south, Tamil Nadu has ordered closure of schools for classes 9, 10 and 11 from March 22 from today. However, classes for the 12th standard students will continue as they have to take the board examination.

The sudden jump in cases was due to "laxity in the observance of COVID-appropriate behaviour" by people, especially at crowded places, the government has said. The Centre has also directed the states and Union territories to strictly ensure that people follow Covid-appropriate behaviour like wearing of face masks, maintaining hand hygiene and social distancing.

India is witnessing surge in Covid cases amid a countrywide vaccination drive through which over four crore people have been administered anti-Covid vaccine jabs so far.

The COVID-19 vaccine should be able to give good protection from the infection for eight to ten months, AIIMS director Randeep Guleria said yesterday. He also said that no major side-effect of the vaccine has been recorded.

Serum Institute's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin have been currently approved for restricted emergency use in India. Last week, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had announced that more than six coronavirus vaccines will come up in India.

More than 12 crore people have been affected worldwide since the beginning of the pandemic; 26 lakh have died.

India's Daily Covid Cases Surge To 35,871, Highest Since Early December

NEW DELHI, March 18: With a huge spike of 35,871 fresh coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the highest daily rise since early December, India continues to see a surge in Covid caseload. The government yesterday said a total of 70 districts in 16 states have seen an increase of more than 150 per cent in active cases between March 1 and 15.

Amid a worrying rise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday held a meeting with chief ministers. Decisive steps like management of micro-containment zones and strict enforcement of restrictions were necessary to stop what he called the "emerging second peak" of Covid.

More than 1.14 crore cases have been recorded by India so far; 1.59 lakh people have died.

Modi on Wednesday said "some areas are seeing more of a surge than others" and asked the states to focus on the issue. "If we don't stop this right now, then there could be a situation of a nationwide outbreak. We have to immediately stop the emerging second peak and take big and decisive steps," Prime Minister told the chief ministers.

India has been logging more than 20,000 cases everyday since last week. Yesterday, the government data showed 28,903 Covid cases were logged in the previous 24 hours, 24 per cent lower than the latest surge. 172 deaths - linked to Covid - were logged in the last 24 hours. Yesterday, the country logged 188 deaths, the highest this week.

In the last 24 hours, Maharashtra logged 23,179 fresh cases, the highest rise in daily cases since September 17. With over 23 lakh cases logged since the beginning of pandemic, the state has the country's highest caseload. Sixty per cent of the country's active cases and 45.4 per cent of the fresh deaths are concentrated in Maharashtra, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

Kerala (2,098 fresh cases), Punjab (2,013 fresh cases), Karnataka (1,275 new cases) and Gujarat (1,122 cases) are other four states that saw the highest daily rise in cases in the last 24 hours.

India has been witnessing a surge in cases even as the government focuses on stepping up vaccination drive. More than 3.64 crore doses of vaccines have been administered so far since the rollout began on January 16. However, India aims to vaccinate over 30 crore people by July.

COVID-19 vaccine wastage in India is 6.5 per cent, with Telangana and Andhra Pradesh recording 17.6 and 11.6 per cent wastage respectively, the government warned on Wednesday.

"Vaccine wastage has to be drastically reduced. Any reduction in wastage means that you end up inoculating more people and therefore the chances of disrupting the chain of infection grow that much more," Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.

The Health Ministry today said it has tested 23,03,13,163 samples since the beginning of the pandemic; more than 10 lakh samples were tested yesterday.

Covid-19 appears likely to develop into a seasonal disease, the United Nations said Thursday, cautioning though against relaxing pandemic-related measures simply based on meteorological factors.

Worldwide, 12 crore cases have been recorded so far. The United States has logged 2.97 crore cases.

Moderna kicks off COVID-19 vaccine trials in children aged 6 months to under 12 years

WASHINGTON, March 17: US manufacturer Moderna on Tuesday said it has started COVID-19 vaccine trials for children aged from 6 months to under 12 years old, with plans to enrol about 6,750 participants.

"We are pleased to begin this Phase 2/3 study of mRNA-1273 in healthy children in the US and Canada," said CEO Stephane Bancel in a statement.

"This pediatric study will help us assess the potential safety and immunogenicity of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate in this important younger age population."

US health authorities say that fewer children have been sick with COVID-19 compared to adults, but they can be infected and can spread the virus.

Most infected children have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

School officials across the US are under pressure to fully reopen as soon as possible, but many say they need portable classrooms or shorter school days to meet social distancing rules.

Moderna said 17.8 million adults in the United States have received its vaccine, as the country seeks to step up its inoculation program against the coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 535,000 people in America.

The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have all been authorized for emergency use, and the companies are set to deliver more than enough to cover the entire US adult population by mid-year.

The United States is currently vaccinating around 2.2 million people per day, while almost 65 percent of Americans 65 and older have had at least their first shot.

India to conduct deeper review of Covishield after several European nations suspend shots

NEW DELHI, March 14: Several countries including Denmark, Austria, Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, Iceland and Thailand have temporarily suspended vaccine shots over blood clot fears.

The Indian government has decided to conduct a deeper review of post-vaccination side-effects from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, according to news reports

Denmark temporarily suspended AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine shots after reports of cases of blood clots forming earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Ireland also recommended the temporary deferral of the vaccine after three health workers in Norway, who had recently received it, are being treated in the hospital for bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets.

Amid the controversy, both World Health Organization and European Medicines Agency, however, have vouched for the benefits of the vaccine.

On Friday, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters said, "Yes, we should continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine." And also added: "There is no indication to not use it". The European Medicines Agency on Thursday, meanwhile, said its benefits outweighed its risks and could continue to be administered.

What does it mean for India?

The Indian version of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is known as Covishield. Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, joined hands with AstraZeneca to produce 1 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine. Several countries have ordered the vaccine from SII.

Following the suspension of the vaccine by several countries, the central government has decided to conduct a deeper review of post-vaccination side-effects from the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, as per a news report on Saturday.

"We are looking at all the adverse events, particularly serious adverse events like deaths and hospitalisation. We will come back if we find anything of concern," N.K. Arora, a member of India's national task force on COVID-19 told AFP.

Arora said there was "no immediate issue of concern as the number of adverse events (in India) is very, very low. We are relooking at (adverse events that were reported) to see if there is any issue of blood clotting."

"As of yesterday there were 59 or 60 deaths, and they were all coincidental," the doctor said.

"In fact there is a real effort from our side that once the complete investigation is done, to put its results in the public domain, on the ministry of health website," said Arora.

Till now, India has reported 0.020% of Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI), or side-effects, and 0.00025% hospitalisation. The vaccine hasn't been linked to any deaths in India.

As the world's largest COVID-19 vaccination drive is underway in the country, India has nearly administered three crore cumulative vaccination doses with a total of 2,97,38,409 through 5,10,400 sessions, as per the provisional report till 7 am on Sunday.

According to the health ministry, a total of 2,91,92,547 vaccine doses has been given as per the provisional report till 7 pm today.

Maharashtra records 14,317 new Covid-19 infections, highest in 2021

MUMBAI, March 11: Continuing the upward surge of single-day Covid-19 infections, Maharashtra on Thursday reported 14,317 new Covid-19 cases, the highest in 2021 so far. Mumbai on the other hand witnessed a dip from yesterday's figure (1,539) and recorded 1,508 cases in the last 24 hours.

The Centre on Thursday expressed concerns over the Covid-19 situation of Maharashtra as eight districts of the state have the highest number of active Covid-19 cases in the country. The districts include Pune (18,474), followed by Nagpur (12,724), Thane (10.460), Mumbai (9,973), Bengaluru Urban (5,526), Ernakulam (5,430), Amravati (5,259), Jalgaon (5,029), Nashik (4.525) and Aurangabad (4,354).

"We are very worried about Maharashtra — across several districts. We have seen their names. As we came here, we came to know that very strict lockdown is being imposed in Nagpur in particularly. So we are reaching a situation where those approaches are being brought back. This is a very serious issue for us," Niti Aayog member (health) VK Paul said.

Earlier in the day, the Nagpur administration announced a strict lockdown from March 15 to March 25 to combat the spread of the infection. Apart from essential services, everything else, including private offices, will remain closed.

Before Nagpur, several other districts like Amravati, Nashik, Yavatmal, Amravati imposed restrictions triggering speculations about whether the entire state will be again placed under lockdown. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray earlier expressed reservations against lockdown, but on Thursday he said that strict measures may be taken at some places but as a last resort. As he addressed the state in the evening, he reiterated that he is not in favour of lockdown.

Since the middle of February, Maharashtra started seeing a sudden rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, which has so far been attributed to laxity in testing, tracking. The Centre had sent a team to the state to probe into the reasons behind the spike. In its report, the expert team dismissed any link between the mutant strain of Covid-19 with the spike and mentioned that general carelessness, absence of fear, pandemic fatigue, crowded public transport, elections as the reasons for the surge.

Covaxin safe, can be stored at 2-8°C, says Lancet report

NEW DELHI, March 9: Covaxin, made by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Limited, has been declared "safe, immunogenic with no serious side effects" by Lancet, which has published its phase 2 results. Lancet also said that efficacy cannot be determined by phase 2 trials.

“We report interim findings of the phase 2 trial on the immunogenicity and safety of BBV152, with the first dose administered on day 0 and the second dose on day 28,” the report published on Monday said.

Covaxin induced high neutralising antibody responses that remained elevated in all participants at 3 months after the second vaccination in the Phase 1 trial, it said. “In the phase 2 trial, BBV152 showed better reactogenicity and safety outcomes, and enhanced humoral and cell-mediated immune responses compared with the phase 1 trial. The 6 μg with Algel-IMDG formulation has been selected for the phase 3 efficacy trial,” it said.

“BBV152 (developed using a well established manufacturing platform) was safe, immunogenic (persisting for 3 months), and can be stored at 2–8°C, which is compatible with the immunisation cold chain requirements of most countries. Follow-up studies to assess efficacy and immune responses in older adults and in people with comorbidities are underway,” it added.

The Lancet study enrolled a small number of participants aged 12-18 years and 55-65 years. “Follow-on studies are required to establish immunogenicity in children and in those aged 65 years and older,” it said noting the study population lacked ethnic, racial, and gender diversity, “further underscoring the importance of evaluating BBV152 in other populations.”

The Lancet report says the results reported in the study of phase 2 results do not permit efficacy assessments and the “evaluation of safety outcomes requires extensive phase 3 clinical trials.”

"We were unable to assess other immune responses (ie, binding antibody and cell-mediated responses) in convalescent serum samples due to the low quantity. Furthermore, no additional data on the age of the participant or the severity of disease from symptomatic individuals were obtained. Comparisons between phase 1 and 2 trials were not done in a randomised set of participants, and no adjustments on baseline parameters were made. Conclusions are to be considered as post-hoc analyses," it said.

Bharat Biotech announced earlier this month that preliminary results show Covaxin has an efficacy of 81% in phase 3 clinical trial amid months of speculations to rest.

“Today is an important milestone in vaccine discovery, for science and our fight against coronavirus disease. With today’s results from our phase 3 clinical trials, we have now reported data on our Covid-19 vaccine from phase 1, 2, and 3 trials involving around 27,000 participants. Covaxin demonstrates a high clinical efficacy trend against Covid-19 but also significant immunogenicity against the rapidly emerging variants,” Krishna Ella, Bharat Biotech’s chairman and managing director, said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi opted to get a dose of the home-grown vaccine on March 1 when the country's second phase of the vaccination drive began.

India recorded 15,388 new cases of the coronavirus disease in the last 24 hours, which has taken its tally to 11,244,786, according to the Union ministry of health and family welfare on Tuesday. There were 77 fresh fatalities in the same period, which pushed the death toll to 1,57,930, according to the health ministry.

India records 18,711 fresh Covid-19 cases, infection tally crosses 11.21 million

NEW DELHI, March 7: India recorded 18,711 new cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the last 24 hours, according to update released by the union health ministry on Sunday. With this, the overall tally reached 11,210,799.

The count of active cases went up to 4,219, reaching 1,84,523, according to the health ministry data.

India also recorded 100 fresh fatalities in the said timespan which took the death toll to 1,57,756. So far, 10,868,520 patients have been discharged from hospitals.

The nationwide vaccination drive, which is in its second phase, has seen more than two crore people getting vaccinated so far. On Sunday, the health ministry figures showed that 14,24,693 people were inoculated against the infection in the last 24 hours.

The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 this year and vaccination of the frontline workers started on February 2, 2021.

The second phase of Covid-19 vaccination, for those who are over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions, began from March 1.

The Centre said last week that six states are contributing nearly 86 per cent of the new cases of Covid-19. These are Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka also which are also reporting a surge in the daily new cases.

The Centre has, meanwhile, asked all the states to continue with the strategy of "test, track and treat" that had yielded rich dividends at the height of the pandemic and accelerate vaccination for priority population groups in districts reporting higher infections on mission mode.

A crucial meeting was held on Saturday where Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan and NITI Aayog member Vinod K Paul reviewed the ongoing public health measures of surveillance, containment and management of Covid cases.

The Centre has also sent teams to the states with high caseload to assist the respective health departments in coronavirus surveillance, control and containment measures.

Doctors find swelling on mammograms after COVID-19 vaccine

MONTGOMERY, March 6: Doctors are noticing an interesting side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine that’s impacting mammograms for women.

“Recent studies have shown that approximately 10 to 15 percent of COVID-19 vaccinated patients can have lymph node swelling,” said Dr. Lauren Thorington, a radiologist at the Montgomery Cancer Center.

Thorington explained that swelling of the lymph nodes is often caused by cancer.

“In advanced breast cancer, we see enlarged lymph nodes pretty commonly. If it’s an early breast cancer, there should be no enlarged lymph nodes,” Thorington said.

A number of other factors could cause them to swell, according to Thorington.

“Infection, inflammation, any vaccine can cause a temporary swelling of the lymph nodes,” Thorington said.

So, Thorington isn’t surprised by this effect of the COVID vaccine, and now, she’s working to stay ahead of what she finds.

“We’ve been asking patients if they’ve had a vaccine, and if they have which side it was in, and when they received it,” Thorington said.

Thorington said there are some reputable groups recommending women wait a certain period of time between getting the vaccine and then getting a mammogram, but that’s not her recommendation.

“Breast cancer screening is most effective, most beneficial to the patients when we can find the breast cancer early,” Thorington added. “So I would like to urge the patient, get your COVID vaccine, you know, that’s extremely important, but also get your screening mammogram that’s extremely important as well.”

Just be sure to speak up at your mammogram appointment if you’ve had the vaccine recently.

Covid vaccine side effects up to three times more common in those who have had virus

LONDON, March 6: Vaccine side effects are seen up to three times more often in people who have previously been infected with coronavirus, new figures show.

The latest data from the King's College ZOE app, which has logged details from more than 700,000 vaccinations, found those with a prior infection were far more likely to report side effects than people who have not had the virus.

The difference between the two was particularly pronounced among those who had been given the Pfizer jab.

More severe side effects are often a sign of better immunity, and emerging research suggests just one dose of vaccine gives a similar protective effect to two doses in people who have had a previous infection.

Experts have now started to question whether people with prior immunity from a natural infection need a second dose at all.

The ZOE data shows that 12.2 per cent of people reported side effects after their first Pfizer jab, but that jumped to 35.7 per cent of those with a previous infection.

For the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, 31.9 per cent of people reported symptoms following their first vaccine, rising to 52.7 per cent of those who had previously been diagnosed with diagnosed with the virus. Most people reported muscle aches, feeling groggy or headaches.

Ellie Barnes, professor of hepatology and immunology at the University of Oxford and one of the Oxford vaccine team, said: "There's emerging data to show that when you've had a Covid infection your T-cells become activated, and then over the weeks after that they become memory T-cells and kind of calm down.

"But they are then able to respond very rapidly to subsequent vaccination. So if you've been infected before and then get your first dose of the vaccine, you have a really excellent response to that single dose compared to someone that wasn't infected before."

Last month, researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital, in New York, found that people with prior infection had between 10 and 20 times more antibodies after their first vaccination than those who had never had the virus. The authors said those with a previous infection would be unlikely to need a second dose and jab supplies could be diverted elsewhere.

The University of Maryland, in the US, also found a greater antibody response in healthcare workers who had previously been infected after vaccination.

Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, said: "Both papers suggest that people who have had a PCR confirmed covid-19 infection may only require one dose of the vaccine.

"Certainly, this would appear to provide them with protection that is at least as good as two doses of vaccine. However, incorporating this into a mass vaccination programme may be logistically complex and it may be safer, overall, to ensure that everyone gets two doses."

Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology, at the University of Warwick, said: "If future work can confirm this high level of immunity post a single mRNA vaccine in this group of individuals, this could become a viable option when there are concerns around vaccine supply."

The King's research showed that women were twice as likely as men to suffer side effects from the Pfizer jab and around 50 per cent more likely from the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Tech glitches mar vaccination drive in India

NEW DELHI, March 1: Even as India kicked off the vaccination drive for senior citizens and those over 45 years with comorbidities, confusion over the registration process marred the rollout, apart from technical glitches that people faced while signing up on the CoWIN platform.

However, experts said these were teething issues which will be ironed out in the coming days.

Many complained that they didn't get an OTP to complete the registration through the app. Even those who were looking to register through the portal have pointed out that they were unable to get the details either through SMS or email.

A source, who has been working closely with the application for the last few days, said such glitches are expected given it is only the first day.

“If you are going to vaccinate 5-10 crore people, these are expected. It will smoothen out in the next few hours or in a couple of days. They are just teething problems,” the source said. He further explained that this is common whenever an application is launched at scale.

“There are hundreds of people currently working to ensure that the whole process is seamless,” he added.

There was also confusion around the registration process. Many of the users have been trying to register using the app, which was meant only for government and healthcare workers. “The app is available only in Android and it is not for citizens to register. It has to be done on the portal,” the source said.

The Ministry of Health also clarified that the beneficiaries have to register using the portal instead of the app for booking appointments.

What is CoWIN?

CoWIN (COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network) is a repurposed version of eVIN (Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network), an indigenously developed platform in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Since January 16 when the first phase of vaccination drive began, the portal and application was used by healthcare and frontline workers. So far close to 1.43 crore have already been vaccinated.

Since the start, the app has been running into technical glitches hampering the progress of vaccination in the country. It was serious enough that the vaccination drive has to be halted for two days in Maharashtra on January 17 and 18, 2021.

Data entry was one of the biggest challenges. The application was not updating the vaccination status of beneficiaries, and there was a lag in registration of healthcare workers in the CoWIN system.

Experts had earlier spoken to had shared that the CoWIN was far from ready for the massive rollout as it requires seamless integration with multiple applications given the massive amount of information that had to be collected and processed.

Hirak Kayal, Vice President – Cloud Applications, Oracle, had earlier said, “We are talking about vaccinating 130 crore people across the country in the next year or two, an exponential increase in the number of people that would be covered under the vaccine.”

This would need massive scale-up in infrastructure compared to eVIN. Kayal pointed out earlier that eVIN that was rolled out in 2015 has some technology infrastructure. However, it is not clear if it has the modern technology needed to handle such a scale of operations that would use blockchain, IoT, AI, and ML, he added.

Sure enough, it ran up to technical glitches. The government has said these issues have been fixed. RS Sharma, CEO, National Health Authority, in an interaction with Quint, had shared that the system is prepared for 1 crore COVID-19 vaccinations per day and the technical glitches have been taken care of.

 

 


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