As supply constraints have eased, developing countries in Asia with large populations have significantly increased vaccination coverage in the last three months. But, vaccine distribution is still marred by inequities.
In mid-June, the US, Germany and the UK, the richest three of the world's 15 most populated countries, had each administered at least 75 doses of the covid-19 vaccine per 100 population. Coverage in the poorest four in the group was languishing in single digits, with the exception of India. But some have accelerated their coverage since then and narrowed the disparity, latest data shows.
Between 15 June and 14 September, coverage expanded by over three times in Bangladesh, five times in the Philippines and 18 times in Vietnam as supply constraints eased. In June, the coverage in the US was 15 times higher than that of Bangladesh, but now it is only five times higher.
In the countries with over $30,000 GDP per capita, Japan was a laggard with low coverage in June, but it has managed a quick ramp-up since the Olympics.
While the progress has been good, it is not enough. Bangladesh's vaccine coverage is only around 21 doses per 100 population, Vietnam's 30 and the Philippines’ 35. Globally, vaccine distribution has fared worse. By last week, 40% of the world’s population had received at least one dose, but only 2% in the low-income countries. There have been efforts to increase vaccine supply under the Covax initiative and to dissuade rich countries from providing booster doses. However, these demand higher levels of international cooperation.
Meanwhile, India is reportedly facing pressure to reopen its vaccine exports, which could threaten to slow down its vaccination drive.
India has administered 219 million doses in the past 30 days, 44% of all the doses it has given in the past three months. It has increased its vaccine coverage to 554 doses per 1,000 population now from 191 doses per 1,000 population in mid-June.
Assam, Madhya Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu increased coverage by four times in this period. With 1,027 doses per 1,000 population, Himachal Pradesh continues to lead the larger states. The state, as well as Sikkim, Dadra and Nagar Haveli & Daman and Diu, Goa, Ladakh and Lakshadweep, has now covered 100% of the adult population with at least one dose.
However, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Nagaland and Meghalaya lag the national average. While Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have been consistently behind, Nagaland and Meghalaya have slowed down in the last two months. Their cumulative vaccination coverage grew by 63 doses per 1,000 population last month, compared to 89 two months ago.
With 140,552 new infections in the past seven days, Kerala continues to account for about 68% of all new cases in the country. It also hosts all of India's top 10 districts with the highest number of cases. Thrissur reported 17,429 cases in the period, followed by Ernakulam (16,503) and Thiruvananthapuram (13,733).
However, there’s a silver lining: in the top 10 districts, cases have declined by at least 7.2% in the past week. At a state level, Kerala reported a 27% reduction in cases, a key factor behind a similar reduction in the all-India number.
The north-eastern region, another hotspot, also witnessed an improvement over the past week, with the exception of Mizoram, where cases rose by 3.6%. In the rest of the country, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal reported a 4.5% increase in cases since last week. Cases went up in 19 of 32 districts in Tamil Nadu.
India reported 2,178 deaths in the past week, down by 2% from a week earlier. Haryana, Goa and Tamil Nadu are the only states to have reported an increase in the number of deaths. Haryana reported 122 deaths this week, up from nine last week due to a reconciliation exercise undertaken by the state health department. Goa, too, added 77 deaths after a similar exercise. Tamil Nadu reported 173 deaths, up 31% from the prior week.
With 986 deaths, Kerala had the most number of covid-related fatalities in the country, even though the toll was lower by 5.2% since last week. It is followed, at a distance, by Maharashtra, with 315 deaths, down 32.4%.
Both Tamil Nadu and Kerala have demanded more vaccines from the Centre to control the infection spread. As the festive season beckons, averting a third wave will be on the mind for all state governments.
(END-NOTE: www.howindialives.com is a database and search engine for public data.)
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