Covid: Calcutta Municipal Corporation to suspend chatbot booking, cites lack of vaccines
The WhatsApp chatbot used to book slots for Covid-19 vaccines at health clinics run by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation will be discontinued from Monday.
Civic officials said uncertainty over vaccine availability was one of the reasons for discontinuing bookings through the chatbot, where people could get their appointments days in advance.
The officials fear that if enough doses are not available, appointments will have to be cancelled and that will lead to arguments and chaos. “Since vaccine supply is very erratic, the health clinics cannot say in advance how many people they can vaccinate on a given day,” an official said.
Before the chatbot facility was launched, people queued up from as early as 4am to get the shot. Someone who joined the queue late was not sure whether she or he would be vaccinated that day even after waiting for hours.
The number of people to be vaccinated at any health clinic on a day depends on the number of doses the clinic receives that day, which is known only the night before.
Bookings through WhatsApp chatbot had done away with this uncertainty.
“The bookings through the WhatsApp chatbot will be discontinued from Monday. Uncertainty over vaccine supply is one reason for discontinuing the service, at least for the time being,” said a CMC official. “We will give the shot to those who have already booked for Friday and Saturday. But the chatbot will not take any bookings from Monday.”
Another reason for discontinuing the chatbot was that a large number of people from outside the Calcutta municipal area were taking vaccines from the CMC’s health clinics.
The civic body wants to devise a way that will allow only residents of the Calcutta municipal area to get shots from the health clinics.
It had earlier said there would be no restrictions on people from outside the Calcutta municipal area to get inoculated at its clinics.
But erratic supply and lack of enough doses have forced the authorities to rethink the policy.
The CMC had to shut the drive-in vaccination site at Quest Mall for the same reason.
Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals and Inox Swabhumi on Thursday started an initiative to vaccinate employees of corporate houses that lack space on their office premises to set up a workplace vaccination site. The employees will be vaccinated at Inox Swabhumi.
“There are many regional offices of pan-India companies that work with a small staff strength in Calcutta. They may not have enough space in their office premises to set up a vaccination site. These companies can approach us to vaccinate their employees and families of employees,” said an official of Apollo Gleneagles.