Stark district-wise divide in vaccinating the elderly in Tamil Nadu

Chennai far ahead; rural areas lagging

May 10, 2021 11:39 pm | Updated November 27, 2021 04:09 pm IST

A poster showing the message that vaccines are not available in Erode. File

A poster showing the message that vaccines are not available in Erode. File

An analysis of the district-wise percentage of people aged 60 and above who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Tamil Nadu shows a stark district-wise divide, with the performance of the rural districts being significantly poor.

A yawning gap was revealed between Chennai and other areas when the number of people vaccinated is compared with the projected population of the 60-plus age group in every district, as of noon on May 10. In a majority of the predominantly rural districts, less than 10% of the elderly received their first dose. In comparison, with an estimated 70.6% of its elderly population having received at least one dose of the vaccine, Chennai was way ahead. Coimbatore had a coverage of 26.2%.

image/svg+xmlThevaccinationgap|An estimated70.6% of Chennai'ssenior citizens hadtaken their frst jab,a number that wasmuch higher comparedto other districts,especially the ruralones in Tamil Nadu.Urban districts such asCoimbatore (26.2%)and others such asThe Nilgiris (43.2%)fared better too. Thelower number for mostdistricts reduced theestimated vaccinationrate for senior citizensin the State to barely17% as of May 9, thelowest fgure for anyState in IndiaDistrict boundaries correspond to 2011 Census. Datafor newer districts were aggregated to calculate for thedistricts existing in 2011. Vaccination % is calculated as"Number of people above 60 years in each district whogot the first dose" divided by "Estimated population of60 plus people in district (based on Census data)".Compiled bySrinivasan Ramani5-10%10-20%20-30%40-50%>50%% of 60+persons whohave receivedthe first doseChennai70.64Vellore13.57Krishnagiri14.81The Nilgiris43.2Salem17.23Tiruvannamalai13.57Coimbatore26.2Madurai17.47Tirunelveli7.93Karur7.9Ariyalur8.42Thiruvarur6.76Nagapattinam6.65Tiruchirappalli17.05Namakkal14.86Kancheepuram21.09Virudhunagar19.22SOURCE: COWIN

The Nilgiris stands out

The Nilgiris, which does not have a significant urban population, stood out as an exception with a coverage of 43.2%, the second-highest in the State.

Madurai, Tiruchi, Kancheepuram, Salem and Virudhunagar had covered more than 15% of their elderly population.

While four other districts had a coverage of 12% to 15%, a few others districts had a poor coverage of less than 10%.

District population figures were estimated by extrapolating from the 2011 Census and applying factors based on the Sample Registration System 2018, released in May 2020.

The data comes in the backdrop of concerns already being raised about Tamil Nadu’s poor performance overall in terms of vaccination coverage when compared to other States. While the overall performance remained poor, the district-wise data showed that even the minimum coverage achieved in the State was largely concentrated in a handful of districts. A recent analysis by The Hindu showed that the percentage of the elderly who had received at least one dose of the vaccine was the lowest in Tamil Nadu.

Also, a look at the vaccine supplies sent to the States showed that Tamil Nadu received doses for only an estimated 12.44% of its adult population as of May 7, the third-lowest among all States, suggesting a relatively lower supply when compared to other States. But the State had used up about 85% of the allocation of the vaccines as of May 7 (including wastage), a middling figure when compared to States like Odisha (96%), Kerala (95%) and West Bengal (95%).

A senior official from the Medical and Family Welfare Department, speaking on the condition of anonymity, cited supply-side constraints, hesitancy and reduced uptake in places where the case load was low as key reasons for the poor coverage. “When the supply is limited, we focus on places with a high case load. Vaccines are sent to places in districts based on their uptake in the previous three to five days as we do not want any wastage,” the official said.

Acknowledging that the poor coverage in rural areas could soon shift the disease burden to these areas, K. Kolandaisamy, former Director of Public Health, Tamil Nadu, said focusing the vaccination in cities with a far higher case load was, however, not a bad approach when there was a vaccine shortage.

“That way, Chennai’s coverage is good. We need to vaccinate more people in places where the case load is high. If we have supply-side constraints, we need to use a very targeted approach to vaccinate high-risk people in rural areas,” he said.

“We should target not only the elderly, but also other groups like those working in pharmacies and grocery shops and autorickshaw drivers in rural areas, who come into contact with more people,” he added.


Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.