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COVID-19 vaccine rollout: Govt tells states, UTs to use Aadhaar to weed out proxies

Aadhaar, surveillance
Credit: Trisha Jalan

The Indian government has urged states to eliminate “proxies” during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout by using Aadhaar to identity beneficiaries. The Empowered Group on Technology and Data Management to combat COVID-19, headed by former TRAI chair Ram Sewak Sharma, said states and union territories needed to seed the beneficiaries’ current mobile number with Aadhaar for both registration (indicating the need for Aadhaar to even register for the vaccine) and consequent communication.

Sharma was speaking at a meeting of the empowered group with states, UTs and other stakeholders at meeting held on Sunday. It was attended by state principal secretaries, National Health Mission directors, immunisation officers and senior officers in the Health Ministry. They spoke at length about the CoWIN — short for COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence — software, which will underpin the nationwide vaccine rollout plan. More than 3 crore frontline workers in India are expected to receive the first vaccinations in the country on January 16.

Weeding out ‘proxies’: Sharma said it was extremely important to clearly identity the person getting vaccinated, and to keep a digital record of who “gets vaccinated by whom, when and which vaccine”. “He also advised the States and UTs that the data collection should meet the purpose of facilitating work and that needs to be validated at the field levels,” he said. Sharma essentially indicated that there would be no duplication if Aadhaar authentication is performed. On CoWIN software, the senior bureaucrat said that the CoWIN had been designed with “inclusivity, speed and scalability”.

The CoWIN app or software system will allow beneficiaries to create a Unique Digital Health ID, part of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM). People who get vaccinated will get QR-code certificates that would be stored on the government DigiLocker service.

The use of Aadhaar for rolling out COVID-19 vaccines has been around for the past few months. It has been suggested by prominent personalities such as Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys and Aadhaar-architect, and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson and managing director of Biocon Limited. However, making Aadhaar mandatory would leave out at least 11% of the country’s population who don’t yet possess the identification document.

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