IN WHAT represents a significant shift, India’s Covid-19 immunisation drive has taken a rural turn now: more than six out of 10 shots in the last three weeks were administered in rural vaccination centres, according to official data.
Between May 1 (when the entire adult population was made eligible for vaccination) and June 23, only 51 per cent of the total doses were administered in rural India, the Centre had said in an affidavit to the Supreme Court on June 26. In absolute terms, this works out to 9.61 crore doses in the rural parts during the 54-day period — a daily average of 17.81 lakh doses.
The last three weeks have seen a sharp jump in rural vaccinations: of the total 9.87 crore doses administered in the last three weeks, 6.22 crore doses were in rural parts, which is 63 per cent of the total doses. The daily average in rural areas has thus increased to 29.66 lakhs now.
This shift has important public health implications for at least three major reasons:
One, during the ferocious second wave of the pandemic, rural parts of the country were badly hit; an increase in vaccination coverage in these areas would be key to reduce mortality and the severity of the disease if there is a third wave.
Second, in the first two phases of the vaccination drive, urban centres dominated the vaccination coverage; the shift now indicates better equity than earlier.
Third, the trend is also an indicator of lower vaccine hesitancy, which was earlier reported in several rural parts.
At present, 11 states have administered over two crore doses. The state-level granular data of the last two weeks in these states shows a significant push in rural areas.
* An analysis of the data over the last two weeks shows that six out of these 11 states are reporting higher than national coverage of 63 per cent in rural areas. Kerala, which administered 31.83 lakh doses in the last two weeks, 74 per cent in rural parts. Uttar Pradesh, which has vaccinated the most (5.36 crore doses) in the country, administered 89.73 lakh doses in the last two weeks, of which 73 per cent was in rural parts. During May 1-June 23, it was just 56 per cent.
Why rural India needs more shots
Bihar administered 48.69 lakh doses in the last two weeks, 72 per cent in rural parts.This is almost 8 percentage point increase, compared to the May 1- June 23 period. Andhra Pradesh administered 38.71 lakh doses in the last two weeks, 71 per cent in rural parts. Madhya Pradesh 68.05 lakh doses, 69 per cent rural, a staggering 24 percentage point increase compared with May 1-June 23 period. Rajasthan 43.64 lakh doses; 68 per cent in rural areas.
* The data also shows that two states of these 11 are moving in the direction of the national trend over the last two weeks. Gujarat administered 47.70 lakh doses in the last two weeks, of which 62 per cent is in rural areas. Similarly, Tamil Nadu administered 39.16 lakh doses over the last two weeks, of which 60 per cent is in rural parts of the state.
* Three states – Maharashtra, Karnataka, and West Bengal, which have big urban centres including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Pune, are reporting rural coverage slightly lower than the national average. Karnataka administered 38.10 lakh doses in the last two weeks, of which 56 per cent was in rural areas. Maharashtra 51.55 lakh doses, 48 per cent rural; and West Bengal 41.62 lakh doses, 49 per cent rural.