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Glaring Gender Gap In India’s COVID-19 Vaccination, Data Shows

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COVID-19 vaccines for women are being touted to be as available, accessible and as they are for men. And yet, numbers for women inoculated in the country reveal a gender chasm that at the moment runs deep. Deeper, it turns out, than the sex ratio.

As of June 3, CoWIN data shows 8,12,64,969 women and 9,41,58,775 men have been vaccinated with at least one dose. The ‘others’ data shows merely 27,970 doses administered. Census 2011 says India’s sex ratio is 940 females to 1000 males. With regard to vaccinations, only 863 females per 1000 males are inoculated.

These figures are alarming and at once telling of the inequality that exists basis the gender hierarchy, class divide, identity oppression and therefore, resource accessibility. Why are women receiving comparatively less jabs even as India’s vaccination drive enters its fourth month? Are states and the centre doing enough to bridge the gap? Is necessary information trickling down to the far ends where mobile networks don’t reach?

covid-19 vaccines for women

Graph: SheThePeople, Data: CoWIN, June 3

Tech Gap, Lack Of Information, Patriarchal Setups Slowing COVID-19 Vaccines For Women

The tech-first approach India has taken in vaccinating its adult population has created barriers not just across the gender distribution but also other communities of persons with disability or trans persons who are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to access and procurement of devices.

At present, registration and slot-booking through CoWIN is the primary road to getting vaccinated. But how many women in rural India possess necessary technology of their own to get through to available slots? Are homemakers in control of devices at home that are usually bought by the incomes of their male partners? Are women kept at priority to get vaccines in such households? And when (if) they do manage to book a slot, do they have access to safe transport to get to the centre?

Divided between the pressure of domestic chores and an overhead norm of getting the jab that stands to protect them from a life-threatening virus, women are often not left with much choice outside of doing what social and familial decisions demand they do.

How many home-bound women will feel comfortable venturing into unknown spaces populated with men? Why aren’t women-only vaccination centres being instated across the country?

But this is not a rural-only problem. Data shows New Delhi, the national capital, is one of the worst in the male to female vaccination gap. Where 24,89,635 men have received at least one dose, women figure at only 18,03,893. Kerala, on the other hand, has a flip chart with women in excess of men getting vaccinated. As of June 3, 40,68,177 women have been vaccinated as against 36,59,727 men. Chhattisgarh is another state showing similar promising trends.

It’s hard not to relate Kerala’s empowering vaccine gender distribution with its high literacy rates – a clear indication that education translated to better resources, greater civic sense, and disbelief in vaccine hesitation and myths has played a big role in bringing women out of their homes and into vaccination centres.

And finally, despite the extensive research literature on the risks facing pregnant women during the pandemic, there are neither solid provisions in place to get them inoculated nor deeper and faster studies into the safety and efficacy of vaccines for them. Mortality rates for COVID-19 positive pregnant women are high, data suggests. Potentially higher death figures, if we count the foetuses at threat.

So many lives have been lost in vain, so many others hang in the balance. Can we afford a delay any longer?