Photo Credit: Reuters
You may soon be able to register for COVID-19 vaccination and book slots though third-party apps. The government has introduced a new set of guidelines for CoWIN — the digital platform it is using for the COVID-19 vaccination drive in India — essentially aimed at allowing third parties to enable registration, scheduling, and management of vaccination through their apps. This is an update to the existing framework in which developers can only offer information on the availability of slots and downloading of vaccination certificates via their apps. The new guidelines come at a time when the country is facing a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, which is making it very difficult for people to find vaccination slots on the CoWIN platform.
As per the update, spotted first by journalist Ivan Mehta, the CoWIN APIs will allow app developers to roll out the ability to register and schedule an appointment and manage COVID-19 vaccination and facilities directly from their end. The developer-side changes will take place in the master database maintained as part of the CoWIN platform, the guidelines mention.
Up until now, government-run Aarogya Setu and Umang were the only apps that allowed users to register and book COVID-19 vaccination appointments, while third parties could only show the availability of appointment slots. The government had also recently revised the CoWIN public API guidelines to defer delivery of appointment data to third-party apps, which made COVID-19 vaccine availability information via apps like Paytm and HealthifyMe dated and unreliable.
A designated email address has been provided through which developers can register for the private APIs of the CoWIN platform to provide registration and scheduling through their apps. The guidelines also suggest that the registration could be mandatory for developers using CoWIN's public APIs.
“All entities (ASPs), wishing to integrate with Co-WIN using APIs, including for use of only the Public APIs, will have to first register as ASPs,” the guidelines read.
The requirement for prior registrations could help mitigate concerns over the misuse of the CoWIN platform through bots and automated programs. However, it is important to point out that the given email address was not working at the time of filing this story.
By expanding the use of CoWIN APIs, the government may finally allow state authorities to start taking registrations and scheduling vaccination appointments through their own apps. It is, however, worth noting that the update will not help ensure an adequate supply of COVID-19 vaccines that are currently lagging far behind the demand.