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Friday, June 25, 2021

Centre allows walk-ins for 18+ at govt vaccine centres, admits digital divide

With several states forced to shut down vaccination sites or operate a limited number of vaccination sites due to unavailability and shortage of vaccines, the Centre’s decision to allow walk-ins is likely to have limited impact.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi |
Updated: May 25, 2021 7:27:11 am
Delhi High Court asked the Centre and Delhi government to undertake publication of all Covid-related information, especially helpline numbers. (File)

MORE THAN three weeks after it rolled out vaccination for the 18-44 age group, where slots could be booked only through online appointment on Co-WIN, the Centre on Monday enabled on-site registration and appointment for this age group at government-run Covid-19 vaccination centres (CVCs).

However, with several states forced to shut down vaccination sites or operate a limited number of vaccination sites due to unavailability and shortage of vaccines, the Centre’s decision to allow walk-ins is likely to have limited impact.

So far, only vaccinations for those above 45 were allowed through walk-ins, with those in the 18-44 age group having to mandatorily register and book a slot through Co-WIN.

The Centre also said vaccinations at private centres will continue to be through online appointments. “This feature [of walk-ins] will not be available for private CVCs presently and the private CVCs will have to publish their vaccination schedules exclusively with slots for online appointments,” the Union Health Ministry said in a statement.

The Centre said the decision to allow onsite registration and appointments at government vaccination sites for 18-44-year-olds was on the basis of representations made by states, and that the final decision to open up for walk-ins and group registrations rests with states.

The Centre said it considered two points while changing the policy on online appointments for the 18-44 age group at government sites.

First, it said, that in the case of sessions exclusively organised through online slots, there could be cases of doses left unutilised in case the beneficiaries do not turn up for vaccination. “In such cases, on-site registration of a few beneficiaries may be necessary to minimise the vaccine wastage,” it said.

Second, it considered the fact that beneficiaries without access to the Internet or smartphones “may still have limited access to vaccination”.

The Centre, however, said the new feature will be only “upon the decision of the respective” state governments. “State/UT must decide on the opening of on-site registrations/facilitated cohorts’ registration and appointments for 18-44 years age group based on the local context just as an additional measure to minimise vaccine wastage and for facilitating vaccination of eligible beneficiaries in the age group 18-44 years,” the Centre said.

The Ministry further told the states that “abundant caution should be exercised and extreme due care should be taken” to avoid overcrowding at vaccination centres while opening up of on-site registration and appointment for the 18-44 age group.

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