A number of reports have claimed that homeless people were "barred and conspicuously left out" from registering for COVID-19 vaccination due to unavailability of technical requirements. They further stated that the "requirement to register digitally", "knowledge of English and access to a computer or a smartphone connected to the internet" are some of the factors depriving people of vaccination.
The government, however, dismissed the claims as "baseless". In a statement, the Union Health Ministry debunked the allegations while clarifying that the ownership of a mobile phone is not a prerequisite for Covid vaccination, production of address proof is also not compulsory and it is not mandatory to pre-register online on Co-WIN for availing vaccination.
The reports had claimed that the "requirement to register daily", "knowledge of English and access to a computer or a smartphone connected to the internet" are some of the factors depriving people of vaccination.
In its response, the ministry reiterated that Co-Win is available in 12 language for an easy understanding of the users. This included Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Odia, Bengali, Assamese, Gurumukhi (Punjabi) and English.
The Co-WIN platform is an inclusive IT system that provides a flexible framework with all the necessary features to facilitate vaccination coverage in the remotest parts of the country as well as for those who are the most vulnerable, the statement said.
While one of the nine identity cards, including Aadhar, voter ID card, ration card with photo, disability ID card, is required for vaccination, special provisions have been made by the government for organising vaccination sessions for those who may not have any of the nine specified identity cards or own a mobile phone, it clarified.
The ministry said taking full benefit of such provisions, more than two lakh such beneficiaries have been vaccinated so far. It said that the government has issued an advisory on May 27 for near-to-home vaccination centre services for the elderly and differently-abled persons.
For those who may not have access to the internet or smartphones or even mobile phones, free of cost on-site registration (also popularly called walk-in) and vaccination is available at all government vaccination centres. Eighty per cent of all the vaccine doses administered so far were through the on-site-vaccination mode, the ministry said.
In on-site vaccination, all the data recording for registration, vaccination and generation of vaccination certificates is done by the vaccinator and the beneficiary himself or herself is only required to provide the basic minimum necessary information.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 vaccination coverage is found to be better in tribal districts than the national average. Data also shows that over 70 per cent of the vaccination centres are located in rural areas, including more than 26,000 at the primary health centres and 26,000 at the sub-health centres, the statement said.