Covid vaccination lag grows amid case rise

Published on Jun 10, 2022 12:26 AM IST
There is an increasing number of people not showing up for their second shots of Covid-19, data analysed by HT shows, heightening concerns about the country’s vulnerability to the pandemic at a time when cases have begun to rise in several parts of the country.
Noida, India-June 09, 2022: A health worker collects a swab sample for Covid-19 test, at District Hospital, Sector 30, in Noida, India, on Thursday, June 09, 2022. (Photo by Sunil Ghosh / Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
Noida, India-June 09, 2022: A health worker collects a swab sample for Covid-19 test, at District Hospital, Sector 30, in Noida, India, on Thursday, June 09, 2022. (Photo by Sunil Ghosh / Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
By, New Delhi

There is an increasing number of people not showing up for their second shots of Covid-19, data analysed by HT shows, heightening concerns about the country’s vulnerability to the pandemic at a time when cases have begun to rise in several parts of the country.

A total of 95.3 million people or 9.6% of those eligible are yet to take their second shots. This includes 21 million in the 12-18 years ago group who are late by more than six weeks, and 74.3 million adults who are late by more than 16 weeks. Two doses are needed for a full course.

This is in addition to people delaying the third or booster shots, which enhances protection in those with waning immunity, which occurs roughly six months after they completed their primary vaccination. Till June 8, almost 80% of those eligible for the booster shot, had not taken it.

The number of people not turning up for second shots is likely to be a significant underestimate because the mandatory gap for Covaxin, the most used vaccine in India (accounting for 17% of all doses) after Covishield, is a maximum of six weeks. All those in the 15-18 years age group are only eligible for Covaxin. The health ministry’s guidelines for Corbevax, given to those in the 12-15 age group, only specify a minimum gap of four weeks.

India reported 7,665 new cases on Thursday, an increase of 35% in the seven-day average of new cases compared to a month ago. Maharashtra (2,813 cases), Kerala (2,271) and Delhi (622) contributed the most cases on Thursday.

As many as 74.3 million adults, or 8.2% of the 906 million eligible adults, have delayed their second dose by more than 16 weeks. Teenagers who delayed the second shot by more than six weeks number 21 million, or 24% of the 86 million who took their first doses by April 27.

Then there’s the lower uptake of booster shots, where at least part of the problem might be complacency. 67.7% of the 71.3 million adults eligible on April 10 did not receive their booster on the day. This figure climbed to 78.1% of the eligible 165.4 million by June 8.

HT has previously highlighted that decrease in sites of vaccination and boosters not being free could have a role to play in this.

However, data for Delhi alone, which went through a small surge in cases in late April and early May, and made boosters free for all adults on April 22, suggests some of the delay could be because of complacency. Nearly three in four (74.8%) of eligible people were late for their boosters in Delhi on April 10, the first day when all adults became eligible for it.

The seven-day average of daily Covid-19 cases on that day was 147. People late for boosters decreased to 69.7% of eligible by May 9, when the daily caseload was 1,345, just past the May 3 peak of 1,423. As cases declined, the share of people late on their boosters became stagnant around 70% and did not decrease further.

Such complacency can possibly worsen the spurt in cases taking place in urban centres currently. Of the 707 districts for which data has been compiled by How India Lives up to June 6, 23 districts display two important signs of rising cases.

In these districts, the seven-day average of cases has increased by at least 20% in the 14 days up to June 6 and this average is now more than 10 cases.

Maharashtra, which contributes five of these 23, has some of the worst-affected districts: Mumbai (7-day average of 826 cases as on June 6), Thane (213 cases), and Pune (101 cases) have all averaged over 100 cases in the past week, which is more than three times the average from two weeks ago in Mumbai and Thane and more than two times in Pune.

Ten of the 23 districts are from Kerala, but at 193 cases per day, only Ernakulam averaged more than 100 cases in the past week.

Of the remaining eight districts, Bangalore is only one averaging more than 100 cases. It recorded 225 cases per day in the week ending June 6, a 92% increase or almost double the average of two weeks ago. In Chennai, Hyderabad, Kancheepuram, Lucknow, and Ahmadabad the average cases are in the 30-60 per day range. But barring Hyderabad, in all other districts, these figures are double or more of what they were two weeks ago.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Abhishek Jha is a data journalist. He analyses public data for finding news, with a focus on the environment, Indian politics and economy, and Covid-19.

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