Fastest-Finger-first to get vaccinated first: Sikkim’s online Vaccination slot registration system.

Sikkim woke up early on State Day, 46 years back on this day Sikkim became the 22nd State of Indian Union. Citizens not just woke up to commemorate the eventful day but went on to have a mind boggling and stressing time early Sunday morning. A virtual marathon to book the slots for vaccination in cowin.gov.in started at 6AM and ended in just matter of minutes.

Fastest-Finger-first to get vaccinated first: Sikkim’s online Vaccination slot registration system.

Sikkim woke up early on State Day, 46 years back on this day Sikkim became the 22nd State of Indian Union. Citizens not just woke up to commemorate the eventful day but went on to have a mind boggling and stressing time early Sunday morning. A virtual marathon to book the slots for vaccination in cowin.gov.in started at 6AM and ended in just matter of minutes.

300 slots available for the Urban Centre Gangtok, 100 slots for Socheygang and 100 for Ranipool got booked as magically in seconds leaving citizens frustrated, claims many on social media platforms.

On May 15 Dr Phumzay Denzongpa, Vaccination officer Sikkim speaking with Sikkim Chronicle about the online slot booking said, “ The registration process for 18 to 44 age category is totally online, none can come on site and get vaccinated, the slots for vaccination will open at 6:00 am everyday”

“Due to shortage and low production rate of vaccines we only received 9940 doses of Vaccine in our first consignment, due to which at first we won’t be able to distribute vaccines to all 4 districts, and Gangtok being one of the most populated area having with higher case load we have decided to start vaccination in and around Gangtok in the initial stage.”

“From Monday onwards vaccination drive will start at 3 places Thakurbari, STNM AYUSH Building and Ranipool PHC and the slot booking will be online through Co-win application.

 Many citizens, entrepreneurs, and journalists came to social media platforms to express their frustration and concerns on the same.

Kushan Zulca, an entrepreneur who currently has been acting as go-to helpline for COVID in Sikkim was expressing his discontentment towards the process of booking a slot for vaccine. He calls the online booking of slot as a lottery system, and seeks an immediate response on it from the authorities.

In his Instagram handle he writes “The Co-Win system is so over-complicated and gasified that even people who spend all day on Instagram are having difficulty understanding it.  Slots not being available for more than 3-4 minutes are another topic.

Sikkim needs to solve this immediately. The lottery system is not working and is not going to work in a state like ours.

We need to have a state-wide Vaccination Policy that enables ease of access and makes sure the slow supply of vaccines are first provided to groups at most risk and then in a proper system to the mass public. We cannot be waking up every day at 6AM to do this.

Just imagine how wills your local vegetable vendor, taxi driver, meat supplier or even an average person who doesn’t use much tech get close to a chance of doing this”

A citizen Homenath Dhungel from Gangtok also wrote a satire over the elected representatives. He writes on Facebook “Aakha Jhimik Vaccine Gayab! (Vaccine missing over a blink of eye) We stood in the long queues to elect magicians!  Democracy is Magic by the people, for the people, of the people! Pure Jaadu! #SikkimMagicland”

Over the slots being limited and not prioritizing the people at higher risk has been another issues that citizens are trending it virtually.

People with history of diabetes, asthma and other comorbidities followed by people in essential services like vegetable vendors, waste management, banking, and journalists and then the mass public should be vaccinated accordingly states many.

The online booking of slots and failing to book one has also left many journalists on dismay.

Pankaj Dhungel, a Journalist writes in his Facebook “This on the State Day of Sikkim. So woke up early on a rainy, Sunday morning ignoring the nature's call just to get the slot for vaccination. The co-win app is a no-win app. The slots in Thakurbari got booked in just 30 seconds; every other vaccination Centre was full in the next 4 minutes.  There is no way we are getting access to vaccination based on the app or the portal. It's 100% lottery and there is minimal chance that we might get lucky. There seems to be no alternative other than getting the slots booked for the journalists. It did appear as though the slots were pre-booked for Thakurbari, how can 300 slots vanish in like 30 seconds? Humble request, we might have to press on the matter of getting journalists vaccinated more rigorously. Else, booking the slot through the app or portal is a fool's dream. Journalists are also frontline workers.”

Some Sikkim journalist have even called the vaccination process as a marathon run, an Everest climb, a jackpot hit and many more. Some citizens have even expressed to go for vaccination if it’s available in any other centers or medical units on purchase.

Malavika Rai, Assistant Professor, Namchi Government College expresses her happiness on confirmation of her vaccination slot for May 17 yet she puts her opinion forward on the vaccination process. She states “Picking up vulnerable population might be a big task thus the ASHAs can come forward and take notes of such people and they can help. Instead of doing it online why not make them fill a form with their ID cards or license of business whatever and deal separately this way we will have two different bodies catering to vaccinating the masses”.

Sikkim state as per the official report on May 15 has a total COVID active cases of 3010 and with death toll of 203.  With the magnitude of the rise of cases in Sikkim, limited health infrastructures and man power will be quite challenging in days ahead thus the mass vaccination and strictly following of Covid protocol and adapting COVID appropriate behavior has to be the emergent call.

The state is undergoing lockdown for a week starting May 17-24 which somehow is seen to break the chain of transmission but taking into the consideration the rush the questions arises till what extent will it reflect positively and be something to look ahead for?