Amidst growing fears of a third wave of covid-19 infections, India’s access to vaccination has taken a turn for the worse. The average number of operational vaccination centres in the country dropped by 28% in the first two weeks of July, compared to the last 10 days of June, when the Union government took over the distribution of vaccines from states.
This month, India had about 34,000 operational vaccination sites, lower even than the first 20 days of June. Three states—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh—saw this number drop by more than 50%.
Some state governments, including Tamil Nadu and Telangana, said the decrease was due to shortage of vaccines, while Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Wednesday blamed the states for mismanaging vaccine distribution. The Union health ministry said states, Union territories and private hospitals had about 15 million unused vaccine doses.
A district-wise breakup of vaccination sites shows that most of the country has faced poorer access this month, some districts more than the other. In all, 577 of 717 districts saw a decline in vaccination sites. In 110 districts, the number of operational vaccination centres came down by over 50%.
This is in sharp contrast to the last 10 days of June, when 457 districts saw an increase in the number of functioning vaccination sites, and the average daily doses given at each site jumped to 116. In July, the average daily doses per site is down to 79.
India registered 8.2% growth in vaccination coverage—measured in terms of share of population that has received at least one dose—climbing four spots to third position among the 10 most populous countries. The growth rate is up from 7.4% last week, but down compared to 11.6% a fortnight ago. Meanwhile, China continued to make huge strides in mass vaccination, having administered 14 billion doses, 11.6% more than all countries in Africa, Europe, Oceania, North and South Americas combined, according to data available on Our World in Data. Earlier this month, Japan had accelerated its pace of vaccination in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, slated to begin on 23 July. After registering 26% growth in coverage last week, it has slowed to 10.6% this week. So far, Japan has vaccinated 31% of its population with at least one dose.
While the number of new cases in India decreased by 7% in the past week, it has gone up in the five districts that have been reporting the most new infections. In all, 54 districts from 17 states and Union territories witnessed an increase in cases registered in each of the last two weeks. Kerala’s Malappuram reported over 12,000 cases, the highest in any district in five weeks. Maharashtra’s Nandurbar saw the steepest growth, jumping to 349 cases this week from just 11 last week. The north-eastern states are still reeling under the impact of the second wave, and have 15 of the country’s 23 districts that saw an increase in cases in each of the last four weeks. 12 of these districts have been consistently registering over 150 cases every week. Mamit in Mizoram saw its cases double to 142 cases in a week.
After decreasing for two weeks, the number of deaths in some parts of the country is again on the rise. As many as 25 districts—including eight from Odisha, six from Maharashtra, and three from Kerala—saw deaths gradually increase in each of the last three weeks. In fact, the week-on-week death tally in Odisha has been on a rise in the past one month, even though it has been limited to only a few districts. Pune recorded 567 deaths in the past seven days, becoming the first district to go past 500 in a week since late June. Seven districts have reported more than 150 deaths each in the past seven days, all from Maharashtra. Both Palghar and Thane witnessed a three-fold increase.
Mass vaccination, the most effective solution to offset the impact of a probable third wave, has lost some of its momentum it got from the Union government late last month. Currently, at 3.8 million doses a day, it is just slightly higher than the 3.2 million doses averaged in early June. This needs to pick up.
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