Mumbai's Covid-19 daily vaccine roulette offers dark humour in India

The rush to book coveted vaccine appointments as doses run dry has led to jokes and memes in the locked-down city. PHOTO: AFP

MUMBAI (BLOOMBERG) - Every night around 8pm, the residents of Mumbai huddle around their phones and laptops. They are trying to book coveted vaccine appointments as doses run dry.

The daily drama has led to jokes and memes in the locked-down city, which seems to have controlled a devastating wave of the coronavirus and is now desperate to protect its citizens from further infection.

Here is how it plays out: First step, wait for the municipality to throw open registrations, which depends on how many vaccine doses the local authorities manage to procure.

Next, log in to the government-run website and hit "search by pin code" until you find a centre that has secured doses and will be open. Book a slot before others do. Savvier ones turn to external apps to help game the system.

The fastest-finger-first approach has led folks to compare playing the portal - named Co-Win - with the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, or Kaun Banega Crorepati.

The shortage of vaccines became acute after Prime Minister Narendra Modi - initially under pressure for controlling the allocation of doses among states - abruptly opened up the programme and asked provinces to purchase their own share. He also simultaneously allowed everyone above 18 years of age to be injected, compared with people only over the age of 45 when the federal government had been procuring the vaccines.

The rush for doses created a bottleneck, with Indian manufacturers unable to immediately meet demand and import orders not yet realised. At the current pace, it will take a projected 2.8 years to cover 75 per cent of India's population with a two-dose vaccine.

That has left the youth of the nation scrambling to win a slot on the daily vaccine lottery app.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.