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Bridging the gender gap in India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive

October 01, 2021 / 11:22 PM IST

The COVID-19 vaccination drive in India has gained momentum over the past nine months since its rollout. A total of 87 crore doses[1] have been administered so far. In recent times, the vaccination data has drawn attention to the gender disparity in vaccine doses being administered.

Out of the total doses administered to date, 45.14 crores doses[2] have been for males and 41.51 crores[3] doses for females i.e. 51.88% of total doses were given to males and 47.70% doses were given to females. Over three crores more doses have been administered to males as compared to females.

In India, the population of males is higher than that of females. However, an analysis in the Hindustan Times, has ruled this out as a possible reason for the disparity[4]. Pregnant and lactating women were not part of the vaccination coverage at the beginning of the campaign. While it has now been deemed safe for this group to take the vaccine, myths around this continue to prevail, making many pregnant and lactating women hesitant to get inoculated. There has also been misinformation surrounding menstruation and the vaccine, discouraging women from taking the jab while on their menstrual cycle. The possible effects of the vaccine on fertility has been another widespread myth doing the rounds, particularly among women in rural communities. They fear the vaccine may affect their abilities to conceive and bear children, deterring them from getting vaccinated. Even though there are ample resources and efforts for awareness, people in rural parts of the country remain cut off from these, relying largely on hearsay.

In many households, men continue to be the only earning members. They are more likely to get vaccinated to be able to resume work. The vaccination centres are located far from villages in rural areas, another factor that could be a hindrance for women. In many households even today, women need permission to leave their houses and are often unable to commute alone to the vaccination centres. They are unable to get themselves vaccinated in the absence of another male family member. Being primary caretakers of the family, women often end up delaying their own vaccine dose so that housework is not affected by post-vaccination side effects. Furthermore, in many households, women lack access to smartphones. This disconnect from technology also has a role to play in fewer of them getting registered and inoculated.

While in the initial months of the campaign, the gender disparity in vaccination was significantly large, this gap seems to be gradually narrowing now. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram and the union territory of Puducherry have administered a higher number of vaccine doses to females than males[5].

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Initiatives that are being undertaken to make vaccinations available to people from low-income and rural communities are likely to benefit women as well. In some states, decentralized vaccination camps are being organized in villages and communities, making it no longer necessary for people to commute long distances to nearby vaccination centres. This is also likely to encourage more women to get vaccinated. Vaccination centres now allow on the spot registrations and walk-in slots. Therefore, women who have not been able to register themselves on the Co-WIN portal can also get vaccinated directly at the centre. In Mumbai, a walk-in vaccination drive was organized across centres in the city, especially for women.

Even though these are encouraging measures to bridge the gender gap, these efforts need to be amped up across states to make vaccines truly accessible to everybody alike. According to the National Commission for Women (NCW), emphasis should be placed on creating public health awareness and bringing more women to vaccination centres. The Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA), Anganwadi Workers and other social and community health workers can be instrumental in achieving this. There is an urgent need to break age-old gender stereotypes and prioritize the health and wellbeing of women in the country.

At present, there is limited data available on vaccinations for people who are transgender, non-binary, gender fluid etc. clubbed under the category of ‘Other’ on the Co-WIN dashboard. 191690 vaccines doses have been administered to this group[6].

[1] Data from Co-WIN dashboard, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare updated as on 28th September 12:00 PM

[2] Data from Co-WIN dashboard, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare updated as on 28th September 12:00 PM

[3] Data from Co-WIN dashboard, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare updated as on 28th September 12:00 PM

[4] https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/there-is-a-gender-gap-in-india-s-vaccination-coverage-101623060093797.html

[5] As per data taken from Co-WIN dashboard, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 28th September 12:00 PM

[6] Data from Co-WIN dashboard, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare updated as on 28th September 12:00 PM



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first published: Oct 1, 2021 11:22 pm
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