CoWIN Public API Rules Revised to Discourage Third-Party Vaccine Slot Notifications

The Indian government has issued new CoWIN API guidelines that make all websites, apps, tool, and Telegram groups that were providing real-time data on the availability of COVID-19 vaccine slots redundant. These notifier sites helped citizens get notifications for available slots instead of constantly having to refresh the CoWIN portal to look for slots. Coders across the country had taken advantage of public APIs offered by the government to help with a vaccination slot appointment. However, the new guidelines say that the “appointment availability data is cached and may be up to 30 minutes old”.

The guidelines for the publicly available CoWIN APIs were revised recently (May 5), making them redundant for all those websites that were using them to notify their subscribers of vaccine slots availability in real-time. The new guidelines claim “the appointment availability data is cached and may be up to 30 minutes old”. “Further, these APIs are subject to a rate limit of 100 API calls per 5 minutes per IP. Please consider these points while using the APIs in your application,” the guidelines say.

This means all the data that is received by the websites using these APIs will likely be delayed, and the results showing up may not help in getting a slot. There is no clarity on why the government made this change as these sites were only helping people find an available slot. To book for a vaccination appointment, users still had to go to the CoWIN site.

Paytm was the latest to join many other apps and websites that notified citizens when a COVID-19 vaccine slot opened up. HealthifyMe started tracker that also offers useful filters when searching for a centre — such as search for vaccine slots for 18-44 category, search for vaccine slots for 45+ category, search for Covishield or Covaxin — along with WhatsApp notifications.

Since India opened up its COVID-19 inoculation drive for all citizens above the age of 18 earlier this month, vaccine slots have been hard to find due to low stock. The surge in COVID-19 cases in India has increased the need for vaccines, and these sites were helping those who wanted to go and get their vaccine shots sooner than later.

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