Logistics, Lockdown and Lost Nerves: Why Bihar, UP Are Denting India's Vaccine Drive

·3-min read

Even as India steams through the Covid-19 vaccine exercise pushing past humongous obstacles like hesitancy and fear among citizens, and teething logistical issues, two of its most populous states – Bihar and Uttar Pradesh – are impairing its collective performance.

The rural-dominated states are lagging behind in terms of the worst ratio of vaccination per million population.

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has administered only around 58,000 jabs per million population while Bihar, the third most populous state, stands a shade better at 61,587 doses.

Bihar, home to over 12 crore people, has merely 2,706 vaccination centres in the entire state, including 19 private ones. It carried out 82,000 vaccinations on May 5 and still has as many as 5.34 lakh vaccines in stock, as a result of which the Centre has decided to send only 50,000 more vaccines for Bihar over the next three days.

In comparison, India’s second-most populous state Maharashtra has administered nearly 1.4 lakh jabs per million population while Rajasthan and Gujarat are also among the better performers with a figure of almost 1.9 lakh each. In absolute numbers, Uttar Pradesh has cumulatively given 1.32 crore vaccinations out of 17 crore in India and gave around 1.47 lakh jabs on May 5.

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had last month aimed at increasing daily vaccinations to 6.5 lakh from May 1 but that is yet to happen. UP has 10 lakh jabs in stock. Bihar, meanwhile, has done about 75 lakh vaccinations cumulatively so far.

The rural riddle and second-Dose conundrum

In UP, maximum doses (6.11 lakh) have been given in the state capital of Lucknow followed by about four lakh each in Meerut, Kanpur, Prayagraj, Noida and Ghaziabad. In Bihar, Patna tops the list with 6.6 lakh jabs followed by Saran and Siwan (3.5 lakh each) but is lagging in other districts, highlighting the lack of penetration of the vaccination drive in large, rural areas of both states.

Another matrix being closely watched by the Centre is if states have been able to give second doses in good numbers as only the complete set is fully effective. Bihar’s record on that is also among the country’s worst when compared to its total population as only 13.75 lakh people in the state have so far taken both doses. In Uttar Pradesh, this number stands at 26.46 lakh.

Relatively, smaller states with one-third or lesser population than that of UP like Rajasthan and Gujarat have given both doses to 25 lakh and 30 lakh people respectively. The vaccine wastage is also on the higher side in Bihar at nearly 5 percent while it is 3.4 percent in UP.

More than teething troubles?

At least two officials posted as District Magistrates in rural districts of UP and Bihar respectively told News18 that it was a task to convince villagers to get themselves vaccinated as many had wrong notions about the same. “Some villagers associate a random death of a vaccinated person to the vaccine. Awareness campaigns are being run,” one of the officers posted in East UP said.

Another posted in North Bihar lamented at the sheer lack of vaccination centres in Bihar and said the exercise was hence erratic. “Also, the state has now gone under complete lockdown from May 4 to May 16 due to the exponential rise in the number of cases. This has an impact on vaccination numbers as people hesitate to step out,” the officer said.

Vaccination numbers have been falling across the country as well, as reported by News18 two days ago. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a review of the same on Thursday. “PM spoke about the need to sensitise states that the speed of vaccination doesn’t come down. Citizens should be facilitated for vaccination despite lockdowns and healthcare workers involved in vaccination must not be diverted for other duties,” a government statement said on the PM’s directions.

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