Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin has repeatedly highlighted the poor allocation of vaccines to the state and that its allotment has been one of the lowest in the country.

A girl, wearing a mask, being administered the vaccine dose by a health worker.
news COVID-19 Vaccine Thursday, July 15, 2021 - 18:23

The Tamil Nadu government has repeatedly claimed that the state’s share of vaccines is disproportionate to its population size, resulting in an acute shortage. On Tuesday, July 13, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the poor allocation of vaccines. Two weeks ago, the state government claimed that its allotment has been one of the lowest in the country. When the CoWIN data on the total doses and the population of each state are considered, the disproportionate allocation is evident. 

Tamil Nadu, which is the fifth-largest state in India, has received just 5% of the total share of vaccines used in the country. The national average of vaccines used by all the states stands at 41% as of July 13. However, the state has been able to provide doses to just 31% of its eligible population (above 18 years old) and remains in the bottom three among the 10 least vaccinated states when it comes to vaccine allocation. Tamil Nadu has so far administered 1.54 crore first doses and 32 lakh second doses. 

Breaking down the numbers

Most of the non-BJP ruled states have raised concern about the lack of transparency and disproportionate vaccine allocation. The state-wise split up on allotment has not been released by the Union Health Ministry after May.

On May 15, the Union government had allocated 20 crore vaccine doses to all states and as of July 14, the total allocation was 39.5 crores. However, the allocation has been disproportionate to the population of states. For example, Tamil Nadu’s vaccine allotted in proportion to its eligible population was 15% in May and has now doubled to 31%. Yet, it remains one of the states with the least allocation.

The Tamil Nadu government, in June, stressed the Union government to ensure necessary compensatory allocations to states that were allotted a lower number of doses per capita. Further, in the recent letter to PM Modi, Stalin reiterated that the number of vaccine doses provided to Tamil Nadu was at 302 per thousand eligible population. “This is very low when compared to the vaccine doses made available to comparable states such as Gujarat, Karnataka and Rajasthan, which are at 533, 493 and 446 respectively,” the CM said.

Let’s consider the data based on the vaccines used by these states — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh — which have a similar population. Gujarat has provided jabs to 58% of its eligible population. While 53% in Karnataka and 52% in Rajasthan have received doses, 44% of Madhya Pradesh’s 18 plus population received the COVID-19 vaccines. Tamil Nadu has received 31% doses in proportion to its eligible population.

Vaccine allocation policy

As per the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, “Vaccine doses provided free of cost by the government of India will be allocated to states/UTs based on criteria such as population, disease burden and the progress of vaccination. Wastage of vaccine will affect the allocation negatively.”

Earlier this year, the Narendra Modi-led government modified its policy and allowed the states to procure 25% of available vaccines from May. Chaos followed as states floated individual tenders and were forced to compete with each other for procurement from just two suppliers — Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech. And, after Supreme Court’s interference, the policy was again reversed. Since June 21, the government began 75% procurement of vaccines and distribution to states.

Last month, the Union government, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court, said that 135 crore vaccine doses would be available by December 2021 as against its earlier claim of 216 crore doses for the August to December period. In addition, the Union government also emphasised that it will allocate vaccines in proportion to the population between 18-44 years of age of the respective state so as to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines. However, the data at the national level tells a different story.

A total of six states that are among the 10 most populous states also figure in the list of states that have received the least number of doses. However, Rajasthan (52%), Karnataka (53%), Gujarat (58%) and Madhya Pradesh (44%) have received vaccine doses more than the national average of 41%.

Shortage vs wastage and hesitancy 

Tamil Nadu Health Minister Ma. Subramanian recently said that supply constraint has impacted the vaccination process in the state, which has the infrastructure to administer seven to eight lakh doses per day. Multiple changes to the vaccination policy, along with the supply constraints, have significantly impacted the inoculation process in Tamil Nadu, even though the hesitancy has come down. Marred by supply constraints and increased demand, all southern states have seen a drastic fall in their vaccination rates.

Read: COVID-19 vaccinations in south India fall: Here are the numbers

Tamil Nadu is the fifth-largest state in terms of the 18 plus population estimates — 5.8 crores. It has a density of 587 people per square kilometre. In terms of COVID-19 cases, as per Union government data, it is the fourth most affected state, next to Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka. It is to be noted that India has severely underreported COVID-19 deaths.

Additionally, in terms of wastage, Tamil Nadu has drastically reduced it over the months and has utilised about 97% of the total supplied vaccines, as of July 11. Taking into account all these factors, Tamil Nadu is eligible for a higher share, but it is among the bottom three states in terms of vaccine allocation.

Dharani Thangavelu is an independent journalist based in Tamil Nadu and Alamu R is pursuing her PhD in Political Science from JNU.

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