Most states that were leading vaccine coverage in early April such as Chhattisgarh, Delhi, and Gujarat continued to maintain their lead at the end of the month. Among laggards, only Punjab and Telangana were able to raise their vaccination pace significantly
As India expands its covid-19 vaccine coverage to all Indians above the age of 18 years from 1 May, it’s instructive to see how major states fared in April, when inoculations were allowed for those above 45 years. Of the 21 states with a population above 10 million, 17 doubled their number of vaccine doses per capita between 1 April and 29 April. But these were on different starting points, and hence there was a base effect in play.
Based on their current coverage and gains recorded in April, these 21 states can be divided into four sets. The first set comprises seven states that were early leaders in vaccines and have maintained their pace, and includes states such as Kerala and Gujarat. The second set comprises six states that had middling performance earlier and have maintained pace. This set includes states such as Karnataka, Haryana and Maharashtra.
The third set comprises two states -Telangana and Punjab - that were laggards at the beginning of the month, but have grown at above 200% to pull themselves up. The final set comprises 6 states that were laggards at the start of the month and continue to lag behind. This set includes Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, India’s two-most populous states that are seeing rising caseloads and fatalities. Surprisingly, it also includes Tamil Nadu, which has a better-funded health system than most other states.
Till now, the Centre was managing the flow of vaccines. But beginning 1 May, the onus of procurement will shift to states. How they manage supplies, how they address gaps in vaccine management, and how much support they receive from the centre will be key to ramping up India’s vaccination coverage.
Even as India’s covid-19 infections and deaths shot up, the country received global attention and help. The US agreed to lift the export ban on raw materials that will allow Serum Institute of India to ramp up production. Several countries, including the UK, Denmark, and Saudi Arabia extended support by offering essential medicines and equipment. Russia said it will send its first batch of Sputnik vaccines coming Saturday. Even as India’s covid-19 vaccine doses per capita increased marginally from 11% to 12% in the past week, the pace of increase was among the slowest across the most populous countries globally. Last week, it was sixth among the 10 most populous countries in ramping up vaccine coverage. This week, it was eighth, according to data portal Our World in Data. Japan registered the fastest growth, but on a low base. The US continued to lead in cumulative vaccine doses administered, and India maintained its sixth position on that metric.
As new cases continue to break past records, Bengaluru Urban leads the case tally. Over the past week, Bengaluru added 126,000 new cases, twice that of Pune and thrice that of Mumbai, districts it had surpassed earlier as the country’s leading hotspot. The new cases in Bengaluru Urban were 45,000 more than its tally a week before. Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, is now ranked sixth in new caseload.
There were 18 districts, from 9 states, that added more than 20,000 cases in the past week. In the previous week, there were 11 such districts, spread across 6 states. This week, 24 of 36 states and union territories saw double digit growth in cases. 11 saw more than 20% week-on-week growth, increasing the strain on the healthcare system, and intensifying conflicts around oxygen allocation. Tamil Nadu, for example, has complained about oxygen getting diverted to other states.
Covid deaths have continued to surge across the country even as under-reporting persists. The past week saw the highest number of deaths since the pandemic started even as the official covid-19 tally surpassed the 200,000 mark. On Wednesday, Maharashtra reported 1,035 deaths in one day, its highest ever. Deaths last week in the state account for 26% of total deaths in the country.
Jharkhand has replaced Chhattisgarh as the state with the biggest surge in covid-19 deaths, as the weekly death count climbed 35%. Bihar and Delhi’s weekly death tally also saw sharp jumps.
As cases and deaths continue to mount, states need to redouble their efforts in testing and isolating patients early on, to contain the spread of infections. The centre and the states also need to address vaccine shortages and vaccine hesitancy on a war footing till we attain herd immunity.