Issues With Technocratic Approach to Vaccination Drive

.Synopsis – The current technocratic-based vaccination drive in India excludes the digitally illiterate population of the country. It is leading to substantial biases and inequality.

  • The GOI launched CoWin portal to digitize the vaccination drive and made online registration mandatory for vaccination booking [18-44 age groups].
  • The approach has resulted in a digital divide among the rural population. Moreover, it also brought several other issues, such as vaccine exclusion and lack of privacy, with it.
Key issues with the current technocratic based vaccination drive
  • Firstly, Lack of technical literacy –With no internet access and understanding of CoWin portal functions, the majority of India’s rural population is left out of COVID vaccination efforts.
    • Concerns-
      • Digital divide- Only 34.60 percent of the rural population has access to the internet.
      • Lesser registration through CoWin portal- According to CoWin data, only 2,52,96,511 of the 14,42,10,652 vaccine registrations [for 45-plus age group] were done through CoWin.
  • Secondly, the COWIN portal ignores data protection and cybersecurity- The CoWin website lacks a privacy policy, putting medical healthcare data at risk of disclosure through third-party providers.
    • The CoWin website is contrary to-
      • The Supreme Court’s right to privacy judgment
      • Also, the GOI’s departmental guidelines for official websites states that while collecting data, government websites “must incorporate a prominently displayed privacy statement…”.
  • Thirdly, Use of Facial recognition technologies FRT also poses a threat to privacy – The CEO of the National Health Authority said that Aadhaar-based FRT will soon replace biometric fingerprint or iris scan machines at Covid-19 vaccination centres. It will avoid infections.
    • The FRT will increase the risk of exclusion and discriminatory outcomes. Moreover, FRT is not an accurate mode of identification, thus affecting the proper dispensation of the shots.

The technocratic approach is prioritizing data collection and efficiency over vaccine equity. It disregards the experience of public healthcare and digital rights experts. The present deployment of CoWin, is undermining the right to health, instead of augmenting it.

Source-The Indian Express

India’s vaccination strategy needs a course correction

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