Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh drove the improvement. But there’s still ground to cover
India had delivered 330 million vaccines by the end of June, but only 86 doses went to women for every 100 doses that went to men. This was six points below the country’s female:male ratio of 92:100 and raised concerns about gender inequality and its public health consequences. However, July saw some improvement. Of the 463 million doses it delivered by the end of July, 88 doses went to women for every 100 that went to men.
This slight improvement was primarily driven by Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, three large states that closed the vaccination gender gap the most last month. Tamil Nadu’s ratio went up from 87 by end of June to 95 by end of July. West Bengal improved it from 79 to 85, while Madhya Pradesh improved it from 79 to 83. However, the progress on this front was held back by eight states where the gender gap widened. Two are large states with over 5 million population - Gujarat and Haryana, where the female-male ratio of doses stands at 83 and 81 respectively.
The inequality in vaccine deliveries is more pronounced at the district level, especially in some hotspots. Among the bottom 15 districts, 8 belong to 4 north-eastern states. Kiphire in Nagaland and Noney in Manipur have the lowest coverage of women, with less than 60 women vaccinated for every 100 men. But in both the districts, coverage has improved in the last month. By the end of June, these two had only vaccinated 44 women per 100 men.
Globally, Bangladesh led the weekly increase in vaccination coverage among the top 10 most populated countries, registering a 29.1% growth rate, up from 3.6% last week. Its coverage however is still low at 8.6 doses per 100 population, partly due to a severe supply crunch in COVAX, the UN initiative that distributes vaccines to lower- and middle-income member countries. Bangladesh ramped up after receiving 6 million Pfizer BioNTech vaccines through COVAX and another 0.25 million AstraZeneca vaccines from Japan late last month.
India saw a 7.7% increase in weekly coverage, taking the third position after Bangladesh and Philippines. The United States takes the last position, but it has already given 104 doses per 100 people. China continues to ramp up, as it went past the US in terms of coverage. It has so far given 117 doses per 100 people.
After a slight decline in the last week of July, new reported cases went up in India by 5% this week to 284,154 cases. Kerala contributed almost half of this, reporting 122,104 cases this week. Nine of India’s top ten districts by cases last week were from Kerala. Malappuram saw a sharp jump of 27% to 24,485 new cases, and led all districts in India in new cases this week.
Besides Kerala, Mizoram and Meghalaya also saw a rise in active cases in each of the last two weeks. These three states currently have 47% of the total active cases in India. Two districts in the north-east – East Khasi Hills in Meghalaya and Aizawl in Mizoram saw the sharpest rise in active cases in the last seven days. Last week, East Khasi Hills had 2065 active cases, which rose to 2135 active cases this week. Likewise, in Aizawl it rose by 20% to 9375.
India reported 3,626 deaths this week, down from 6,254 deaths in the first week of July (which, though, included Maharashtra adding 318 deaths from a prior period). However, in some districts, deaths went up. While Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, Bhadrak and Cuttack in Odisha had each registered single digit deaths in each of the last two weeks, the toll went up in all the three. Tiruppur reported 29 deaths, while Bhadrak and Cuttack reported 26 and 54.
Three districts with a higher base, all from Maharashtra, reported the most deaths in India in the last seven days. Aurangabad registered 176 deaths this week to last week’s 50. Pune and Satara had 145 and 143 deaths, respectively. Kerala might be the current covid-19 hotspot in number of cases, but nine of its 14 districts have reported a decline in week-on-week deaths.
The official death tolls are however likely to be under-estimates, and provide only a lagged indicator of the intensity of the pandemic. The resurgence in cases in some parts of the country and a growing transmission rate should make all of us cautious, and prompt the government to speed up the vaccination program.