District-wise estimates of Covid-19 vaccination coverage in India

India has administered at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to 539.6 million people by September 7.
People queue up to get inoculated at a BMC School in Worli. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)
People queue up to get inoculated at a BMC School in Worli. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)
Updated on Sep 08, 2021 02:40 AM IST
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ByAbhishek Jha

India has administered at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to 539.6 million people by September 7. In absolute terms, this makes India the largest country in terms of number of people who have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine (comparable data from China is not available). But absolute numbers do not matter; what matters is the share of population which has been vaccinated. For example, Israel has completely vaccinated 5.5 million people. But relative to its population, this is 62.7%, compared to just 17.7% for India (the proportion of fully vaccinated adults).

With most decisions involving non-pharmaceutical interventions to prevent the spread of the pandemic, such as lockdowns, being taken at the local level (not just in states but even districts), it will help to know the share of the adult population that has been vaccinated across districts.

HT has estimated the share of vaccinated population at the national and state level by using the population projections for March 2021 by the National Commission on Population. No such projections exist at the district-level. So far, this has been an important handicap in assessing vaccination coverage at the district-level.

To be sure, the government is likely to have population data at the granular level, but this is not available in the public domain.

In a two-part series, HT uses a reasonable proxy for population estimates for adults in India by district. The first part will describe how we arrived at these population estimates and summarise the status of inter-district inequality in vaccinations. The second part will track the trajectory of inter-district inequality in vaccinations over time.

The next-best estimation for district-wise population

Covid-19 vaccines are only being administered to people who are 18 or above. This means the database of voters could be a good proxy (in India, the voting age is 18 years).

HT has used the number of electors at the district level in the 2019 general elections available from the Election Commission of India. Data compiled by the Trivedi Centre for Political Data (TCPD) maps assembly constituencies to districts. This can be used to calculate the number of electors in these districts. There are a total 662 districts in the TCPD database. HT has mapped the 754 districts given in the government’s Co-WIN dashboard back to these 662 districts.

Because, these are 2019 numbers, adult population for a district thus calculated is likely to be an underestimate by 3.74% of the projected adult population for 2021 at the national level. To be sure, there are differences across states. For instance, the number of electors is more than the projected adult population in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu. In all other states, the number of electors is lower than projected adult population. However, the estimation error is largely the same across states. Median deviation across the 23 states and UTs (Union Territories) for which projections are available is -4.05%.

Best and worst performing districts

On the basis of the data on electors, the share of adults who had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine by September 5 was 57.8%. The share of fully vaccinated adults was 17.6%. As expected, these figures are close to but slightly higher than the estimates – 55.7% with one dose and 17% with both doses – generated using the projected population by the National Commission on Population.

Population projections using electoral roll data shows that top five fully vaccinated districts are Kolkata (76.1%), Diu (72%), Leh in Ladakh (71.7%), Gurgaon (64.3%), and Papum Pare in Arunachal Pradesh (59.6%).

The five least fully vaccinated districts are all in Uttar Pradesh: Kanpur Rural (2.97%), Budaun (4.35%), Kannauj (4.57%), Hardoi (4.67%), and Chitrakoot (4.75%).

The best five districts by share of adults given at least one dose are Diu (210%), Kolkata (184%), Solan in Himachal (170%), Gurgaon (150%), and East Sikkim (149%). To be sure, these numbers could be bigger than 100% not only because the adult population might have increased, but also because people from neighbouring districts might be getting their shots here.

The bottom five districts on this metric are Mahbubnagar in Telangana (18.76%), Kanpur Rural in Uttar Pradesh (20.02%), Narayanpur in Chhattisgarh (20.14%), Senapati in Manipur (23.51%)and Kiphire in Nagaland (24.36%).

But best and worst districts do not capture a state’s overall performance

The performance of the best and worst districts is not an indicator of the performance of their respective states. Kolkata, for instance, has delivered 4.2 times the number of total doses per 100 adults as West Bengal and Gurgaon 2.3 times than Haryana. Kiphire in Nagaland, has delivered 0.45 times the number of total doses per 100 adults as the state, Kanpur rural 0.42 times as Uttar Pradesh, and Narayanpur 0.38 times as Chhattisgarh. All these districts are among the top and bottom 10 districts by variation from state-level vaccination figures. Vaccinations in most districts are, however, close to the state-level figures. The ratio of this coverage (district to state) for most (60%) districts is in the 0.8-1.1 range.

The rural-urban divide in vaccination

Whether India’s vaccination drive has reached rural areas is an important question. While using the number of electors as a proxy for adult population, HT has used total population figures from 2011 census to classify a district as rural (more than 60% population in rural areas), urban (less than 40% population in rural areas), and mixed (40%-60% population in rural areas).

Urban, mixed and rural districts had 14.5%, 13.9%, and 71.6% of the total adult population on the basis of the number of electors. Not all states and Union territories had all three categories of districts. For example, Bihar had only mixed and rural districts, and Goa only urban districts. Up to September 5, the share of adults who had received at least one dose was 75.6% for urban districts, 61.41% for mixed districts and 53.56% for rural districts. The corresponding numbers for full immunisation are 28.01%, 21.36%, and 14.80%.

This is the first of a two-part data journalism series on vaccination coverage by districts in India. The second part will look at how district-wise inequality has changed.

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