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Kolkata's WhatsApp Chatbot Helped 75,000 People Avail COVID Vaccines

Getting each and every individual vaccinated is India's municipal & medical bodies top priority across the country. In Kolkata, to help people find available vaccine slots, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation has find a unique way.

Debashis Ray, who is from Kolkata was worried when he couldn't get a slot for his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. But then he got the number for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation WhatsApp chatbot and managed to book an appointment. He is amongst the 75,000 people in Kolkata who have used the chatbot to get themselves vaccinated.

Speaking about how Kolkata's WhatsApp Chatbot is helping people in these tough times, Binod Kumar, Municipal Commissioner, Kolkata Municipal Corporation told NDTV,

What one thing is different when booking a slot for vaccination though the chatbot is that there is no unnecessary lines where people are waiting to get the number. As a result, social distancing is maintained well. Secondly, people feel more safe as there are limited number of people who come to the centre, so crowd management is done well. Lastly, people don't have to wait unnecessarily, they come, get vaccinated are under observation for 30 minutes and go to their respective home.

The chatbot began by providing available vaccination slots for just 3 centres in Kolkata, but soon had to be expanded to 100 centres across the city because of the volume of registrations.

Why WhatsApp bot and not a specific app, explaining that, Abhishek Roy, Head, SeMT, West Bengal government added,

As an e-governance head, whenever we have difficulty, we try to launch an app for the same. But from past experiences, we realised WhatsApp bot are more fruitful. Downloading apps has become cumbersome, plus there are updates available, then there are too many apps. So, there are chances of confusion. But WhatsApp is one consolidated thing, people know the system and use it heavily. In COVID times, we used this in 2020 for e-pass, we also used it to manage migrant labourers earlier. That time, our SMS service got us 5,000 hits, but WhatsApp got 5 lakh.

In addition to vaccine slots, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation chatbot numbers also give information on available resources - like beds and oxygen. And, given its success in Kolkata, the plan now is to introduce this service across all of West Bengal

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