Home / Science / Health /  The worrying gap in vaccinating our 45-plus population

India's covid-19 vaccination roll-out to the general public was designed to cover the older population first. Those above 60 years of age started getting their jabs from 1 March and those above 45 from 1 April. But half a year down the line, India has given only 125 doses per 100 population in the 45+ age group, against the required 200 doses per 100.

For Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu, this number is less than 100 doses, while Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab crossed the mark only this week. Worryingly, the pace of vaccination coverage in these states has slowed down in the last four weeks, data shows.

The country had prioritized 45+ population because the severity of the infection tends to be higher in this age group. Vaccination brings down chances of hospitalisation and death. A recent study by Public Health England showed that even against the Delta variant, Covishield's efficacy was 33% with a single dose and 60% with both doses. India doesn't publish the first and second dose break-ups by age groups. However, assuming that the 430 million doses given to this age group covered the first dose for all 345 million people over 45, it would mean 75% haven't received their second jabs yet.

The five low-performing states, which have together given only 101 doses per 100 population, account for 39% of India’s 45+ population. Further, in these states, vaccination coverage grew 4% last week, slowing down from 7.4% four weeks ago. In Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu, which have the lowest vaccination coverage at 90 and 92 doses per 100 people respectively, the growth was even slower.

Chinese Boosters

India’s weekly vaccination coverage growth slowed down to 4.1% this week compared to 5.7% a week earlier. It has retained its fourth position among the most populous countries for the third week now. Indonesia and Bangladesh have maintained their top spots.

Indonesia has now given 58 doses per 100 population (up from 54 doses per 100 population a week earlier). Earlier this week, it received 688,800 AstraZeneca doses from France under COVAX. It has also approved the three-dose Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products vaccine, making it the fourth Chinese vaccine cleared for emergency use in the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that those above the age of 60 who have received two doses from Chinese makers Sinovac and Sinopharm get a third booster dose. These two vaccines have so far been approved for use in 105 countries, all in the middle- and low-income category.

Festive concerns

India reported 1,27,506 new covid-19 cases in the last seven days, its lowest in a week since the beginning of March.

Kerala constituted 54% of all new cases in the country reported over the last week, down from 56% in the preceding week. The number of new infections dropped in all 14 districts of Kerala for the second consecutive week.

The other hotspot, Mizoram, also reported a decline in cases for the first time in 18 weeks. It reported 8,380 new cases this week, down from 9,408 cases last week.

West Bengal and Odisha were the only two states that reported an increase, up by 6.3% and 9.5% respectively. Fourteen of the 23 districts in West Bengal reported a rise amidst festivities, with Kolkata crossing 1,000 new cases for the first time in 15 weeks. Eight out of 31 districts in Odisha have reported over 100 cases each this week.

Perfect Ten

India reported 1,586 covid-related deaths this past week, 11.4% fewer than the previous week. Sixteen states and Union territories have reported a decline in the number of deaths. Six reported no change, while 10 had zero deaths.

Kerala continued to report the highest number of deaths (760), even though it was down 10.2% from two weeks ago. Maharashtra is at a distant second with 308 deaths.

Three north-eastern states – Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram – along with Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are the only ones to have reported a rise this week. Only 12 districts in the country have reported 50+ deaths this week – nine from Kerala and three from Maharashtra. Eight of these 12, including seven from Kerala, reported fewer deaths this week. Thiruvananthapuram has reported 109 deaths, up from 60 last week, and is the only district to report more than 100 deaths.

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