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How India’s CoWin App Will Power The World’s Largest Covid-19 Vaccination Drive

How India’s CoWin App Will Power The World’s Largest Covid-19 Vaccination Drive

India’s nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive will kick off tomorrow, with 3 Lakh healthcare workers getting vaccinated

CoWin App will be available for public use from March 2021 onwards, until then it is controlled solely by officials

UNDP is working with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, along with WHO and others for this project

India’s massive nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive will kick off tomorrow (January 16). Nearly 3 Lakh healthcare workers are anticipated to get vaccinated on Day 1 and about 25 Cr (250 Mn) people by July 2021, making it the world’s largest immunisation exercise. Understanding the complexity of the task, the Indian government will be launching the vaccine registration app CoWin (Covid Vaccine Intelligence Work) tomorrow to make the process smoother and largely error-free.

While the government has had an app like CoWin since 2015 for various immunisation drives through the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) platform. The CoWin app offers authorities, vaccine administrators and other general public information about vaccine availability, stock and temperature of the vaccine in the cold chain in real-time. It is a scaled-up version of the eVIN, developed to tackle the challenges of Covid-19 vaccination.

As of last August, 23,507 cold chain points across 585 districts of 22 states and 2 union territories routinely use the eVIN technology for efficient vaccine logistics management. The Indian government was looking to expand the app usage to the remaining regions such as Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Ladakh and Sikkim to strengthen the immunisation supply chain and effectively combat Covid-19.

How Much Data Will CoWin Collect? 

While contact tracing apps were hailed as saviours during the pandemic, privacy rights groups had warned of their use in a post-pandemic world. Unlike the Aarogya Setu app which was purpose-built for contact tracing, the CoWin app is a modified version of eVIN and as such as different data collection protocols.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is working with the health ministry along with other stakeholders such as the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop many aspects of the app.

Even though the CoWin app will be launched tomorrow, it will not be available for public use for a couple of months. The government has decided to start the immunisation drive by vaccinating 80 Lakh healthcare workers who have been on the frontline of defense in the fight against the virus. This will be followed by voluntary vaccination of those above 50 and the under-50 population groups with co-morbidities, numbering around 27 Cr.

The early access of the app remains with the officials, who have preloaded the data of eligible healthcare workers. The app will be open for public use from March 2021 and will have four modules — user administrator to track the beneficiary; beneficiary registration; vaccination and beneficiary acknowledgment; and status updation. Once available for Android and iOS devices, anyone in India can register themselves on the app itself. The beneficiaries can register through several ways such as pre-populated Aadhaar data, survey data or self-register with other details.

CoWin will collect basic data about the beneficiaries such as their name, age, sex, comorbidities and residence to monitor them and track them down in case of any adverse side-effects. Overall, the app will mainly collect four types of data — pre-registration of beneficiary; allotment of vaccine to the individual; adverse effects in patients and certification of the beneficiary, sources close to the development told Inc42.

How CoWin Will Help India Solve Vaccine Hurdles?

The CoWin app will largely focus on 3Ps for this project — namely Product, Place and People — i.e. ensuring enough availability of product, awareness about the place and time of vaccinations and ensuring that everyone is vaccinated, the source added.

CoWin is different from past implementations of digitisation of vaccine drives as it comes in a unique point in history. Never before has India had to conduct a vaccination drive of this scale and magnitude, that too across different age groups. Secondly, the new vaccine has been developed in a unique manner and the side-effects of it are still largely unknown. Lastly, the unprecedented eagerness around the vaccine has driven up the need to ensure supply chain stability.

The source aware of the development explained, “Suppose there 100 people to be vaccinated on a given day from three centers and all those three centers are linked to one cold chain point. Then, the cold chain point will have to release 100, or say 110, vaccine.”

The Question Of Privacy

As far as the privacy implications are concerned, our source informed us that the data collected by the CoWin app should not ideally raise any privacy concerns. Aryaman Tandon, practice director of healthcare at Praxis Global Alliance, further added that the privacy implications will be minimal in this case as this is a one-time use app unlike Aarogya Setu, which has access to the user’s movements and social network.

Tandon also laid emphasis on the need for supply chain implication that can help keep track of what temperature were the vaccine stored at, how many people were vaccinated from a vial, who is supplying the vaccine or the syringes and if the vile was properly handled during the transport. He further added that CoWin is not just an app, but a whole enterprise solution.

“Look at it as an enterprise solution and not just an app. App is just the front-end of it, there is a huge behemoth sitting behind it. It has interfaces at every point,” Tandon told Inc42.

Note: We at Inc42 take our ethics very seriously. More information about it can be found here.