CoWIN slots have opened for citizens in the age group of 18 to 44. However, 150 CoWIN slots are getting booked in a matter of seconds, which has become a cause of concern for thousands of people who are trying to book appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations in India. As soon as a slot is shown to be available, citizens trying to book the appointments are given the message that “This vaccination center is full for the mentioned date”.
“CoWin portal is showing sometimes 1 or 100 slots for 18+ many a times a day but when we try to book, it is showing slot not available. Kindly start the slots or correct portal to display proper information,” says Archit Jain. As 150 CoWIN slots get exhausted in less than ten seconds, several citizens have raised concerns of scripts auto-booking the slots as well.
“Sir, we feel bots are auto-booking CoWIN slots on the website. 93 slots got filled up in seconds. Atl east allow walk-in registration and hospitals to manage on first come first serve basis similar to 45+ registrations,” says one such citizen on Twitter.
“Sir I believe your intentions are good but don’t you think people are miss utilizing the API. Now they have developed scripts to book the slot. Within 1 second all the slots are getting booked. If this continues technical people will book all the slots,” asks Neha on Twitter.
However, the Government of India says that auto-booking is not possible on the CoWIN platform as a new CAPTCHA feature has recently been introduced. RS Sharma, CoWIN chief, has in fact challenged anyone to display how a script can book CoWIN slots. “We have not opened the Registration and Booking for third parties as yet,” he said.
Nevertheless, the CAPTCHA feature seems to have slowed people down as by the time the characters are entered, the appointments are booked. “Getting slots is like a treasure hunt, who will solve the captcha and get the OTP the fastest will get the slot,” says Pinkesh Panchal. “Captcha has been recently introduced to book the slot which is very time consuming and flawed. When you enter a Captcha it says its wrong, and by the time you enter the correct Captcha all the slots are booked,” said Ramdas Shegaonkar to Dataquest.
Citizens, due to these problems, have also been requesting the Government of India to allow walk-in for COVID-19 vaccination for the 18 plus age group as not everyone is tech-savvy. “I was vaccinated today and I will admit that I was extremely lucky to book a slot through cowin. Not everyone below 45 is tech savvy. No one should be forced to book an appointment before visiting. This is a public health issue, not a hackathon,” says Nambi PV.
However, walk-in registrations have currently been disallowed due to fear of over-crowding at centres. “Currently, walk-ins are not allowed for 18+ as a precautionary measure to prevent crowding at the vaccination centres,” says RS Sharma.