Making the vaccination process simpler, one notification at a time | India News

Making the vaccination process simpler, one notification at a time | India News
NEW DELHI: It’s a race against time, say users who have tried booking vaccination slots for themselves during last week. Across centres, slots open up randomly, with no intimation — In Bihar, vaccination centres still show that jabs are available only for people above the age of 45; all Delhi centres are booked out for the age group between 18 and 45; not a single vaccination centre shows up in Noida when users try booking a jab in Uttar Pradesh.
But some techies are offering real-time solutions to demystify the vaccination process by sending real-time alerts about slot availability through email, telegram channels and WhatsApp notifications.
Generating these alerts has been possible because the Indian government made the Cowin Application Programming Interface (API) – a software that allows two applications to talk to each other – publicly available to all developers.
Berty Thomas, a resident of Chennai, has founded a tool, under45.in, which sends people such alerts through Telegram Channels. “I tried registering myself for vaccination a day after the process opened up for people between 18 and 45. But there were no slots available for people of my age group. So, I accessed the Cowin API and wrote the script for a tool that filters out centres for people my age group,” Thomas told TOI.
It took Thomas three hours to write the first code and build a website, but the server that hosted his tool crashed on May 1, just a day after he put it out online for public use. “So many people tried logging on to the tool on May 1 that it crashed. That’s when I realised that the process could become smoother if the tool could issue alerts to people trying to book slots,” he said.
Thomas then developed a script that sends notifications to people through instant messaging platform Telegram. Currently, over 1.6 lakh people have subscribed to Telegram channels, which are categorised according to regions. “All people have to do now is subscribe to the Telegram channels and they will receive the alert. It is being used by people across 80 districts; The Bengaluru channel is the biggest one with 35,000 subscribers,” Thomas added.
Other programmers have developed similar tools to ease out the vaccination process. Four friends, Azhar Hussain, Shyam Sunder, Anurag Kishore and Akshay Nautiyal, developed another slot notifier “getjab.in”. The website that lists down different districts where vaccination centres are available, and then sends out alerts to people about open slots through email.
“It feels like the process is lottery-based. Some people do manage to successfully register, but there is no uniformity to the exercise,” said Tahini Bhushan, who managed to book a slot for herself only after signing up on one of these platforms.
It’s not just independent groups of people. On May 6 Fintech giant PayTm also jumped the bandwagon and announced a notifier. “We are launching a new tool for users to find CovidVaccine slots and set for alerts when new slots open up for their locality. @Paytm checks for availability real-time and alerts users via Paytm Chat when a new slot opens up,” Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma tweeted.
Technical difficulties had become apparent on the day the registration opened up for all adults. According to the union health ministry, the department had sent out 1.45 crore One Time Passwords (OTP) to people trying to register on the platform. However, only 80 lakh people had successfully managed to complete their registration.
In Maharashtra, some youths got together to develop a similar vaccine tracker that covers 14 out of the 32 districts. “People who are trying to get vaccinated currently have to sit in front of their laptops for hours just to keep checking the availability of slots. We wanted to change that and make the process easier,” said Suchdeep, one of the developers.
Suchdeep initially made a script to book a slot for himself on May 3, and then shared it with two of his friends. He made the tool public just a day later. “In total, there are 60,000 people who have signed up to different Telegram channels, with the largest group is Pune with 30,000 subscribers, followed by Mumbai with 20,000 members,” Suchdeep said.

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