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CoWIN APIs revised: Here's how the updates could break vaccine finder tools

REPRESENTATIONAL IMAGE: Covid-19 vaccines are currently in short supply across the country.
REPRESENTATIONAL IMAGE: Covid-19 vaccines are currently in short supply across the country.

On Wednesday, the government issued changes to its public API policies which essentially curtailed the capability of third-party tools to inform users about the real-time availability of shot appointments.

As the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the country, the third phase of vaccination for citizens began on May 1, for adult citizens under the age of 44. However, given the ongoing vaccine scarcity, citizens in many cities have been finding it extremely difficult to book an appointment, some turning to tools to alert them when slots open up. However, a recent decision by the government has essentially rendered these tools obsolete.

Also read: Can’t book a slot on CoWIN? Maybe these coders can help

In less than a week, coders across the country came up with useful scripts that were designed to plug into the CoWIN Application Programming Interface (API) to alert users when a slot opened up and let them quickly book a slot. However, on Wednesday, the government issued changes to its public API policies which essentially curtailed their capability to inform users about the real-time availability of shot appointments.

The revisions to the API were published on the API Setu website on Wednesday. 
The revisions to the API were published on the API Setu website on Wednesday.  (API Setu/Government of India)

“These APIs are available for use by all third-party applications. The appointment availability data is cached and may be (sic) upto 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 government’s ‘API Setu’ website now reads. These limitations apply to all third-party vaccine tracking solutions created by coders to help people book a shot.

Read more: Coronavirus vaccine: Facebook app to roll out vaccine finder tool in India

What does this mean for most of the third-party tools, websites and scripts like Findslot, Under 45, VaccinateMe, and GetJab, designed to help users book a slot? Any data that the API returns could be anywhere between 1 minute and 30 minutes old, for starters. This means even if you see 50 slots on the slot finder tool, it could have been booked minutes ago by someone else. Instead of relying on outdated information, it would be better for users to simply visit CoWIN, or Aarogya Setu which will now be the only legitimate, up-to-date sources of vaccine availability.

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