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As India fights against time to prevent a third devastating wave of covid-19, vaccination of vulnerable groups will be key to prevent hospitalizations and deaths. In a recent interview, Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organisation, said India should prioritize vaccinating the 45-plus population since severity of disease and deaths are high in that age group.

India’s record on this front has been mixed. For every 100 people above 45 years of age, India has administered 90 doses (the Cowin portal does not provide the breakup of the first and second doses for specific age groups) suggesting significant coverage. But the overall figure hides significant state-level variations.

Among the states that have given the least number of doses per hundred people in this age group, Tamil Nadu (53), Uttar Pradesh (63), and Bihar (64) top the list. In the subset of those above 60 years of age, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have performed even worse, having administered only 49 and 62 doses per 100 population above 60, respectively. Overall vaccination coverage in these states also remains poor.

Apart from administrative weaknesses, vaccine hesitancy could also be a reason for low coverage among the elderly. 28% of people above 60 years of age in Tamil Nadu were hesitant to take vaccines, according to a study by the state directorate of public health in July.

Philippine Surge

Globally, Bangladesh ceded its top spot among the 10 most populous countries in the weekly increase in vaccination coverage to the Philippines. The Philippines accelerated to 13% growth this week, even as its doses per 100 population increased to 25.8 this week from about 22.8 last week. The country already saw a severe second wave earlier this year around the same time as India did, and is now bracing for a third wave.

So far, its vaccination programme has been primarily riding on China's Sinovac. It recently gave emergency approval to the Hayat-Vax, which is similar to China's Sinopharm, and manufactured in the United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, India has increased its weekly growth in vaccines to 7.3% after maintaining a 6.1% growth in coverage each in the last two weeks. Its pace is still lower than Russia, Indonesia and Brazil, with each of them recording a growth of over 8%. The United States, which has seen a spike in Covid cases, increased its coverage by 1.5 percentage points, highest since the first week of July.

Gradual Decline

​​Weekly covid-19 cases in India dropped to an average of 264,756 cases in August, from around 280,000 in July, declining by 8.4% last week and by 6.6% this week. All states and union territories reported a decline in weekly cases, except for Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Haryana. Even in these states, the increase has been less than 10 cases. The north-eastern states, which have been registering a spike in cases since the last 10 weeks, have each reported a decline of at least 30% in cases this week.

However, there are hotspots at a district level. Serchhip in Mizoram saw 105 cases this week, after consistently reporting 31 cases in each of the last two weeks. The spread has shifted up north, with two districts in Jammu & Kashmir and one in Ladakh reporting a spike this week. Cases in Reasi and Anantnag increased from 7 and 14 last week to 92 and 36 respectively, while Leh reported 53 cases this week, up from 17 in the previous week.

Maha Concerns

The number of weekly deaths due to covid-19 hovered around 3,500 in August. In the first week, India reported 3,834 deaths. In the second, it decreased by 11.7% to 3,383. This week it is down by 0.6% to 3,361. Among states, Maharashtra continues to report the most number of deaths. After registering a 34% drop in deaths last week, it again went up by 10% this week, led by districts of Raigarh, Palgarh and Thane. Raigarh and Palghar saw a four-fold increase in deaths in the last week from 25 and 13 to 106 and 54, respectively. Thane saw a three-fold increase, registering 121 deaths in the last seven days.

In Kerala, another hotspot, 8 out of 14 districts saw a decline in deaths in the past week. However, Alappuzha has been reporting an increasing number of deaths, from 14 in the first week of August, to 28 in the second and 42 this week.

These hotspots show why it’s important to be prepared for a third wave. That entails expanding vaccination rapidly, especially for those at risk.

howindialives.com is a database and search engine for public data.

 

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