NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The digital platform anchoring India's massive COVID-19 vaccination drive will be able to handle up to 10 million shots daily to meet the country's target of covering 300 million people by July-August, a government official told Reuters.
India, which has the world's second-highest number of coronavirus cases, is relying on CoWIN to link beneficiaries with vaccines in what the government touts as the biggest inoculation campaign anywhere.
The world's most populous country after China has vaccinated around three million healthcare workers in the first two weeks of the campaign, at a rate of just over 200,000 a day on average, but this will have to be raised many times over if India is to meet its summer coverage target.
Though initial glitches in the software slowed the immunisation programme, which began on Jan. 16 with frontline workers, the government says modifications have been made to ensure there is no such repeat.
"Big numbers won't be a problem for us," R.S. Sharma, who chairs a government group overseeing CoWIN, said in a Zoom interview. "We will be able to do 10 million vaccinations per day."
Sharma said CoWIN would be integrated into government contact-tracing app "Aarogya Setu", or Health Bridge, which has been downloaded by around 150 million people.
'NOT A FAD'
It is using a vaccine developed at home by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research, and another licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
In the coming months, India is expected to approve two more vaccines, Russia's Sputnik V and Cadila Healthcare's ZyCov-D.
Sharma said individuals would be able to choose vaccination slots and get QR-coded certificates once they have taken their shots through CoWIN, allowing them to carry a proof that can be used for, say, air or foreign travel.
"It's not a fad," he said, "It cannot be done without technology."
India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, is also gifting or selling shots to more than a dozen countries, and Sharma said there had already been some international interest in using the CoWIN platform, including from South Africa.
At home, Sharma said CoWIN would use online and offline systems to register beneficiaries, including through telephone help lines and walk-in centres.
"There will be millions of registrations every day and the system should be able to handle it effortlessly," he said.
Discussions were still underway on how to inoculate such large numbers of people, including possibly using a combination of government and private health facilities, said Sharma, who is also part of a national expert group on vaccine administration.
With 10.7 million confirmed COVID-19 infections, India, with a total population of nearly 1.4 billion, trails only the United States' tally.
It reported 18,855 new cases in the past 24 hours, the highest in three weeks, while deaths rose by 163 to a total of 154,000.
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal and Krishna N. Das; Editing by Gareth Jones)