In addition to the acute vaccine shortage faced by most parts of the country, another hurdle in the country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is the difficulty in expanding vaccination in the hinterlands of the country where a large population does not have the means to register on the government’s CoWin online platform. Responding to the Supreme Court’s query on the same, the central government said that the residents of rural and semi-urban areas who do not have smartphone or internet could make use of the Common Service Centres (CSC) to register for their vaccine slot.
However, as per an Indian Express article, most CSCs remain dysfunctional and the share of vaccine slots registered from CSC remains negligible. Out of over 3 lakh existing Common Service Centres in the country only 54,460 were active on May 11 depriving a large number of people in rural areas of the wherewithal to register for their vaccine slot. The number of vaccine slots registered by these 54k odd CSCs is also negligible at 1.7 lakh out of over 17 crore individuals who have at least got one dose of the vaccine in the country.
The states with large rural population including Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have also not reported many vaccine slot registrations from the CSCs. The total share of vaccine slots registered from the CSCs in these states was less than a fraction of 1 percent in all these states.
CEO of the National Health Authority, which is in-charge of the vaccine CoWin platform R S Sharma told the Indian Express that CSCs are of extreme significance in the Covid-19 vaccination drive. Officials also told the Indian Express that the reasons behind closure of a large number of CSCs was the lockdown-like restrictions imposed by several state governments. Officials also said that the CSCs had also got the mandate to register on the CoWin platform only three weeks back when restrictions had already been imposed.
Dinesh Kumar Tyagi who is the Managing Director of CSCs told the Indian Express that the CoWin platform has been integrated with the CSCs fairly recently and people who did not have a smartphone can come and register at CSCs. Officials also said that rumours surrounding the side-effects of vaccines, pricing and vaccine hesitancy among the rural folks was also one of the reasons behind less registrations.