India’s Expanded Vaccination Program Opens to Crashing Servers

As tens of thousands of Indians thronged to register themselves for coronavirus vaccines when the program opened for all adults Wednesday, servers hosting the government-run website crashed. When systems came back online about an hour later, there were zero available slots.

“Co-Win servers facing issues, please try later” and “504 Gateway timeout” appeared on laptop and mobile screens for scores of citizens. Registrations opened at 4 p.m. local time and all Indians above the age of 18 are eligible to be vaccinated from May 1. Social media channels like Twitter began buzzing with “servers crashing” laments.

The rush for injections shows the desperation in a nation that is now the world’s epicenter of the pandemic. India added more than 350,000 new infections in the past 24 hours — a global record — and an unprecedented 3,293 people died. A projected shortage of vaccines is also prompting citizens to get their doses as fast as possible.

Bangalore student Shiv Kapur, who just turned 18, was among those repeatedly thwarted. He is set to start his undergrad studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, and the school requires him to complete both jabs before arriving at the campus this fall.

Slammed by criticism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s federal government ceded control of the vaccination program in recent weeks, allowing states to procure their own requirements. However, both key manufacturers have committed supplies to Modi’s administration and the earliest states can buy is May 20, according to authorities in Maharashtra, India’s most industrialized state.

Until May 1, only those above 45 years of age are eligible to be vaccinated. Several state governments and companies had been urging Modi to lower the age-limit so people can get back to work.

Under the revised rules, more than 850 million people are eligible. India has so far administered about 148 million jabs, and at this rate it could take two years to cover 75% of its population with a two-dose vaccine.

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