People From Cities Are Taking up Vaccine Slots in Rural Areas Amid Shortage
Due to the high demand for Covid19 vaccines and limited vaccination centers, urban individuals in Maharashtra aged 18-44 are booking vaccination appointments across centers in rural areas, according to reports from the Times of India.
Urban people make up 25-50% of the total patients at vaccination centers in areas on the outskirts of Mumbai, such as Bhiwandi and Badlapur. In areas like Shahapur and Murbad talukas in the Thane district, 95% of the total vaccination slots are booked by people from city areas like Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. People living in the rural parts are thus losing out on the opportunity to get vaccinated as those from cities are more likely to find and use slots owing to high-speed internet and the ability to travel.
This has led to several protests from those residing in rural areas and complaints to the state’s public health minister. As per rules from the central Government, Indian citizens can register for a vaccine in any part of the country. For people under 45 years, beneficiaries have to first register themselves on the online platform, called Co-WIN, and then book a slot for vaccination. However, the non-availability of vaccine slots due to vaccine shortage has prompted individuals in urban cities from resorting to such tactics. Moreover, local people end up getting the shorter end of the stick as they struggle to register themselves on Co-WIN, due to poor internet connectivity. Rural individuals thus demand the authorities include reservation on basis of pin code for vaccination slots to prevent this phenomenon.
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Rajesh Tope, the state Minister of Public Health and Family Welfare condemned this behavior but did not have any clear solutions to tackle the same. He said, “I have received some complaints from rural areas that tech-savvy people in cities are entering rural pin-codes to register themselves for Covid-19 vaccination,” he told reporters here. “It is injustice to rural people who are being deprived of opportunity to get inoculated. City people should not do this. There is no need to panic over the limited supply of vaccine doses.”
Recent reports show that urban individuals are finding ways to circumvent the system, by writing code and utilizing third-party apps that give them quick alerts on open vaccination slots within their district. This leads to a greater disadvantage for rural individuals under 45 years, who do not have the technical or logistical wherewithal to constantly look for slots and shortcuts. Though India is in lockdown, individuals are allowed to travel if they show proof of their vaccine registration, which allows people with cars further mobility and exacerbates inequities that result from digitizing public health processes.
Researchers and experts have previously cautioned that the use of apps and code to game the current vaccination booking procedure will result in inequality that hurts the poor, elderly, and those who live in rural areas without access to high-speed internet. This policy might further “create a problem in making a decision for taking the vaccine,” and suitable relaxations [in tech-based solutions] would be needed to facilitate coverage, Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, a public health expert, told The Swaddle.