How faith and politics mix with vaccines

Health workers talk to Kashmiri nomads during a COVID-19 vaccination drive in Tosamaidan, southwest of Srinagar. (AP)
Health workers talk to Kashmiri nomads during a COVID-19 vaccination drive in Tosamaidan, southwest of Srinagar. (AP)


  • Those lower on the income and education ladder lag behind in vaccination, the latest round of the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey shows. Faith in vaccines seems to be shaped by religious and political beliefs

Addressing the CoWIN Global Conclave last month, Prime Minister Modi announced that CoWin app would soon be made open source and available to all countries . While the Prime Minister wants to pitch the vaccine-booking app as a model of sorts to the world, its reviews at home are far from impressive.

As of 2 August, it’s rated 2.6 on Google play store, much lower than 3.8 of Aarogya Setu app. The latest data from the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey suggests something similar: Over one-third of respondents rated the experience of registration and getting a slot on CoWin app ‘1’ or ‘2’ on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is extremely poor and 5 is extremely good. Respondents were more positive about other aspects of vaccination such as cost and access to centres. Those from poorer and less educated households expressed the greatest dissatisfaction with the Cowin app and the slot-booking process.

The YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey covered 10,285 respondents across 203 cities in the June-July period. The survey was conducted jointly by the Indian arm of the global market research firm YouGov, Mint, and the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research (CPR). The survey is the sixth of a series of bi-annual surveys aimed at examining the aspirations, anxieties and attitudes of India’s digital natives. Roughly half of the sample consists of millennials. The rest are pre-millennials (40+) or post-millennials (aged 18-24).

Surprisingly, millennials and post-millennials reported greater difficulties in registering and booking a slot than pre-millennials. This may have as much to do with the limited vaccine availability for younger age-groups as with the app itself. Glitches in accessing OTPs for slot-booking can seem more frustrating when there are only limited slots.

Vaccine Inequity

Limited vaccine availability meant that getting a slot became a fastest-fingers-first contest, in which luck and a speedy internet connection play a great role. For five months into the vaccination drive, the app was only available in English. Hence, the poor experience rating of those lower on the income and educational ladder should not be surprising. As a consequence of the access barriers, the vaccine coverage also shows deep inequities.

After the Supreme Court commented that a vaccination policy exclusively relying on a digital portal will be unable to meet its target of universal immunisation owing to digital divide , walk-ins and on-site registrations were allowed by the government. But the number of vaccination sites fell by 28% in July, curtailing access to millions without digital access.

Trust Deficit

The data show a significant gap in vaccine coverage across religious groups. Among the respondents polled, two-thirds of Hindus had received at least one dose. But among Muslims and Christians, only about half had got the jab. Religious minorities also reported being more worried about the safety and side-effects of vaccines.

The lack of trust in the ruling regime may be one reason for the doubts on vaccines, some ground reports suggest. Other reports suggest that religious superstitions and beliefs (the vaccine being ‘haram’ or ‘satanic’) could also be at play. State governments and religious institutions may both need to join hands to curb vaccine hesitancy through targeted campaigns and address the fears around vaccines to bridge the trust deficit. Otherwise, even with increased vaccine supplies, a large number of Indians may still remain unvaccinated.

Party Influence

If lack of trust in the regime can lower faith in vaccines, faith in the government can also raise faith in vaccines. Supporters of the ruling party (BJP) are far ahead in vaccine coverage, more convinced of vaccine safety, and less wary of its side-effects and complications than other party supporters, the survey data show. This is consistent with surveys in other countries that find a strong correlation between trust in government and potential acceptance of vaccines .


Those who do not align with any political party are most sceptical of vaccines. While the gap between BJP and other party supporters has widened over time, the attitudes of those who do not align with any party have remained similar .potential acceptance of

Overall, 61% believe that covid vaccines are completely safe. Only 8% said they won’t take vaccines, suggesting that vaccine hesitancy remains low in urban India. But the aggregate figures hide significant group-wise differences, which need urgent attention.

This is the first of a four-part data journalism series on the covid experiences of India’s digital natives.

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