Vaccine inequity deepens in young: 85% of those jabbed are in just seven states
In what underlines the absence of a transparent formula for allocation and raises critical questions of vaccine equity, seven states account for almost a staggering 85% of all vaccine doses administered to those in the 18-44 group since that opened on May 1.
Records analysed by The Indian Express show that the pattern contradicts assurances given by the Centre to the Supreme Court that to ensure equity, it has worked with private manufacturers to factor in states’ population.
Of the 34.66 lakh doses administered from May 1-May 12 to those in the 18-44 age group (the cohort for which states have to procure from the open market), over 85% were administered in seven states: Maharashtra (6.25 lakh), Rajasthan (5.49 lakh), Delhi (4.71 lakh), Gujarat (3.86 lakh), Haryana (3.55 lakh), Bihar (3.02 lakh), and Uttar Pradesh (2.65 lakh).
Except for Delhi, these are six of the 13 states of concern flagged by the Centre that together account for 82.51% of India’s total active cases.
Yet, while the seven states mentioned above recorded over 85% of vaccinations, the remaining seven “concern states — with more than 1 lakh active cases — administered a dismal 5.86% of the total doses to their 18-44 population. In fact many states have curbed vaccinations to this group because of shortage.
Consider this: Karnataka, with the country’s highest active caseload (5.87 lakh), administered just 74,015 doses; Kerala, with the third-highest active caseload (4.24 lakh), administered merely 771 doses.
Andhra Pradesh, with the sixth-highest caseload (1.95 lakh), administered 1,133 doses; Tamil Nadu, with the seventh-highest case load (1.62 lakh), administered 22,326 doses; West Bengal with ninth-highest caseload (1.27 lakh) administered 12,751 doses; Chhattisgarh with tenth-highest cases load (1.21 lakh) administered just 1,026 doses.
This pattern is telling.
First, because the Centre, while distributing 50% of its doses to the states to vaccinate only health care workers, frontline workers, and those above the age of 45, uses “extent of infection” (number of active Covid cases) as one of the three criteria to allocate vaccines.
But this criterion, meant to break the chain of transmission and reduce mortality in high caseload states, is not the factor in the allocation of vaccines to the 18-44 age group for which states have to necessarily procure vaccines from the open market.
The two other criteria used by the Centre are performance (average consumption and speed of performance) and wastage. These don’t seem to matter when it comes to the 18-44 year group.
For instance, Kerala is one of the best performers in terms of recording the lowest vaccine wastage and has administered an impressive 81.12 lakh doses. But it has administered merely 771 doses to 18-44 age group.
Significantly, the Centre, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court, assured that “in consultation with the vaccine manufacturers,” it has determined the pro-rata population of each state in the 18-44 group.” And that “each state will procure only that quantity so that there is no disparity in availability of vaccines between the states inter-se either based upon difference in their bargaining power or otherwise.”
The Centre added that it informs each state in writing the number of vaccines it would receive for the month of May 2021, “from the manufacturers which would be the figure of pro-rata number of state’s population which belong to 18-44 years age group.”
But records show disparity on this count, too.
Telangana and Assam have similar population of over 3 crore. However, when it comes to the 18-44 group, while Assam has administered 1.31 lakh doses, Telangana has administered a dismal 500.
Similarly Uttarakhand which has around 1 crore population, administered 50,968 doses; however, Punjab and Jharkhand which have population of around 3 crore administered just 5,469 and 94 doses respectively.