Desperate wait gets longer in India as Covid vaccine shortage

Desperate wait gets longer in India as Covid vaccine shortage
2 Min Read

Daily US Times: India started its coronavirus vaccine drive in January amid plummeting cases and a fair bit of optimism to get rid of the virus. But the vaccine shortage now causing increasing tension in the country.

The country’s very own Serum Institute of India (SII), which is the world’s largest vaccine maker, was meant to supply most of the doses as the country headed towards an ambitious target – covering 250 million people by July.

As part of a World Health Organization (WHO)-led scheme, the South Asian country even exported vaccines to countries that needed them.

But three months on, Covid-19 deaths and cases are spiking across the country. Only about 26m people have been fully vaccinated out of a population of 1.4 billion, and about 124m have received a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

The Indian government has cancelled exports to cover up the shortage, reneging on international commitments. Worse, vaccine stocks in India have nearly dried up, and no-one is sure when more will arrive.

On Wednesday afternoon local time – just as millions of Indians were trying to register online for a Covid-19 shot – the vaccine portal and its accompanying apps crashed.

Starting 1 May, the country is opening up vaccination for roughly 600 million more people, to cover 18-44-year-olds across the natiuon. But CoWin, as the platform is known, could not handle it.

“I am stuck in an OTP loop of horrors,” said one 33-year-old Indian while trying to register for her vaccine. OTPs, or one-time passwords sent to mobile numbers, are a favoured way in India of verifying identity online.

Others did not even get that far – #WaitingForOTP was soon trending on Twitter in India, and the jokes and memes followed. Eventually the website was back up – but, to the disappointment of more than 13 million people who did finally register to get their vaccines, not a single vaccine centre had slots for booking.

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