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CoWIN app not for general public, use web portal for vaccine registration: Health ministry

The CoWIN app is not for the general public. Instead, the app, part of the overall CoWIN ecosystem, which is available on Google’s Play store is only for administrators. Beneficiaries are supposed to visit the CoWIN portal (cowin.gov.in) to register themselves for COVID-19 vaccines, announced the Health Ministry.

Massive miscommunication

In what can presumably be considered a major case of miscommunication, the Health ministry has waited till the day the COVID-19 vaccine is being made available to people over 60 and 45 (those with co-morbidities), to make this clarification. Multiple mainstream media organisations have so far reported that the upgraded version of the app will allow beneficiaries to register themselves (examples: Moneycontrol; News18, Pune Mirror, Telangana Today, Hindustan Times, Republic World, The New Indian Express, Business Today and many others). In the New Indian Express report, for instance, a government hospital superintendent told the publication that beneficiaries could start registering themselves on the CoWIN app from Monday.  (Disclosure: MediaNama had also reported along similar lines on Friday; the post has been the updated with the latest information)

RS Sharma, chair of the Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration and head of the CoWIN effort, has also contributed to some of the confusion. In an interview to Mirror Now last week, Sharma was asked how the “CoWIN app” was ready to allow a larger part of the population to vaccinate themselves: Sharma, instead of immediately clarifying that the app itself won’t be open to the public, only said that the “paradigm” of the vaccine effort is “citizen centric” by allowing people to choose their own appointments. Later in the same interview, he listed the ways in which one could register — Aarogya Setu, CoWIN portal, seva kendra — but didn’t say anything about the CoWIN app itself. The same day, Sharma gave a 20-minute long interview to NDTV, wherein he issued no such clarification either.

The press release issued by the government on Friday, announcing suspension of vaccinations over the weekend due to upgradation of CoWIN, had also added to the confusion. In the section explaining how beneficiaries can self-register, the note reads: “The beneficiaries will be able to self register in advance by downloading the CO-Win 2.0 portal and through other IT Applications such as Arogya Setu etc. [emphasis added]” One could only assume the phrase “downloading the CO-Win 2.0 portal” meant to download the app.

So, where can one register for a vaccine?

Per the government’s clarification, eligible beneficiaries can us the CoWIN web portal to register themselves for a vaccine. However, multiple Twitter users have reported issues, with non-delivery of OTPs and an unresponsive portal. MediaNama experienced this issue earlier in the morning wherein entering the OTP did not lead to any response from the website. This issue seems to have been fixed at the time of publishing this post.

Simultaneously, beneficiaries can also use the CoWIN dashboard on Aarogya Setu to register for the vaccines. Those in rural areas can approach seva kendra (common service centres) for registration. Beneficiaries can also bypass self-registration and walk into designated COVID-19 Vaccination Centres (CVC) with the necessary identification and documents.

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