COVID-19 vaccination: Women lag behind in Karnataka

Tendency among women not to prioritise their own health among factors, say experts

June 02, 2021 02:32 am | Updated 02:32 am IST - Bengaluru

A health worker administering the vaccine to a transport worker at BMTC Depot 2 off Double Road in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

A health worker administering the vaccine to a transport worker at BMTC Depot 2 off Double Road in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

Women are lagging behind in getting vaccinated in Karnataka by nearly 1.5 lakh, though they outnumbered men in the first phase when inoculation was open only for healthcare and frontline workers.

This mimics the national trend where 9,12,85,344 men have been vaccinated against 7,91,57,070 women.

According to data from the Co-WIN portal, 56,31,821 men and 54,87,031 women have been vaccinated till Tuesday. Till late April, women had outnumbered men and officials had attributed this to the greater female workforce at the grassroots compared to male workers.

In terms of infection, more men have been infected (15,40,818) compared to women (10,60,708), according to data from the State COVID-19 War Room. In fatalities, more men have succumbed to the disease (18,772) than women (10,279) as on Tuesday.

Officials said the number of women getting vaccinated was higher till the drive was opened only for healthcare and frontline workers. This was mainly because a majority of health workers like ASHAs, ANMs, staff nurses are women. However, the trend changed subsequently. In fact, Karnataka was one of the first States to start one all-women ‘pink vaccination booth’ in every taluk to attract more women to come for inoculation.

V. Ravi, former senior professor of Neurovirology at NIMHANS who is now the nodal officer for genomic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in Karnataka, said women lagging behind in seeking healthcare has been the common behaviour in the country. “For any healthcare service that is offered men are the first who come forward. Women too want to ensure that the men in the family get the service first. This trend has been observed in all childhood immunisations too,” he said.

Giridhara R. Babu, member of the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), who is also the head of Lifecourse Epidemiology at the Indian Institute of Public Health in Bengaluru, said it was because of the prioritisation factor. “Women in general do not prioritise their health over others in the family. Also, it depends on mobility, especially in rural areas, and who will register online for them and related aspects,” he said.

Sylvia Karpagam, a public health doctor, said access has always been a problem for women and they usually end up accessing care later and in a more serious condition. “So, unless the healthcare system is specifically geared for women, vulnerable communities or hard to reach pockets, these groups are left out,” she said.

Dr. Karpagam said that technological barriers may be another reason as men maybe able to apply online and women may find it more difficult. “Also there are rumours about side effects of the vaccine which women may feel will affect their day to day functioning. Also there may be a notion that women are mostly indoors and therefore less likely to be exposed,” she pointed out.

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