Editorial: Gender gap in vaccination

Barring Chhattisgarh and Kerala, most States have women vaccination rates worse than their sex ratios

AuthorPublished: 14th Jun 2021  12:00 amUpdated: 13th Jun 2021  6:38 pm

The gender skew in India’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is a worrying trend. The current pattern shows that for every 1,000 men, only 854 women are receiving their jabs. Barring Chhattisgarh and Kerala where more women are getting vaccinated, most States have women vaccination rates worse than their sex ratios. This calls for the attention of the governments so that vaccine hesitancy among women or any other hindering factors can be effectively addressed. In the most populous State of Uttar Pradesh, though the adult sex ratio is 936, among the vaccinated, it is just 746. In Bihar, with a sex ratio of 923, only 810 women per 1,000 men have been vaccinated. The data indicates that there are hurdles to women’s independent mobility and access to registration for vaccination. In a society driven by patriarchal values, women’s healthcare needs generally receive less attention and the same trend is being reflected in the inoculation drive as well. It is ironic that the women, who are at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic as nurses, doctors and ASHA workers, continue to suffer discrimination on the vaccination front. Even in big cities, there is a clear gender skew, probably because of the presence of a large population of predominantly male migrant labour. So far, the number of men vaccinated with at least one dose is 15% higher than the number of inoculated women. There is an urgent need for the State governments to make appropriate policy interventions to correct the imbalance and address the gender skews in the Covid vaccination drive.

Already, the pandemic has hit women disproportionately hard in terms of loss of employment. This is because they are mostly employed in informal sectors that have been the worst hit. The pandemic has further widened the inequalities with 5% of all employed women losing their jobs, compared with 3.9% of employed men. A disturbing trend is that more and more women are being pushed out of the agriculture sector following a drop in demand. The new opportunities being created in modern, high-value service sectors typically go to menfolk. At 21%, India has one of the lowest female participation rates in the workforce across the world. It is less than half the global average. There is a need for a comprehensive approach to improving labour market outcomes for women through better access to training programmes, skills development, access to childcare, maternity protection and provisions of safe transport. The key challenge before the organisations is not just how to recover from the pandemic but to address the long-term systemic issues that create inequality across the workforce. The governments and the private sector need to build diversity, equity and inclusion into their plans for recovery.

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