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India's Vaccine Inequality

Meghna Mathur

COVID-19 is a strange and dangerous disease. To defeat it protection must be provided to all. One weak link could risk recontamination. However, in a country as diverse and vast as India, it is evident that the distribution of vaccines and other protection is unequal. Despite the easing of the second wave, the low vaccination rates in rural India are a reason for concern.

With a virus as contagious as the Coronavirus, all must be vaccinated. One loose string could tear through the fabric of society. No one is safe until all are safe. While the urban population only accounts for 13% of the total caseload, almost 30% of the urban population has received one dose of the vaccine. But, the rural population, which holds 35% of the total caseload, has barely been vaccinated. With hospitals miles away, and inaccessible vaccine appointments, only 12% of the rural population have been vaccinated (a very generous estimate). Vaccines are not the only deplorable disparity the rural populations are facing. Testing facilities are also sparse in rural areas. In the urban districts, 500 people are tested for every 1000 inhabitants. This is a great amount more than the rural districts where less than 50 tests are been conducted for every 1000 people. Hospitals and medical facilities are also unreachable in rural areas. Oftentimes, villagers have to walk for miles and hours to reach the nearest hospital. Procuring vaccines is also a difficult task as vaccine registration was previously conducted through an app, only exhibiting information in English, a language most of the rural population doesn’t understand. This crisis has become calamitous but, how can we prevent such occurrences in the future?

The Indian Government must invest in infrastructure in rural areas, and commit to providing the rural population with adequate healthcare facilities instead of spending it on redundant projects like a new parliament. Recently, the government started a project to build more oxygen plants in rural areas. Such projects should be established. An effective transportation system is also key to achieving a more accessible healthcare system. Roads and transport systems should also be of high priority. If we are to prepare for the next pandemic, we must fulfil these goals and pave the way for our future.

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