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Large Number of Delhi’s Marginalised do not Have Access to Vaccines, Says Study

The study called for review of restricting access to vaccines only through internet-based platforms and formulation of schemes to provide monetary relief for loss of wages suffered by daily wage workers.
Large Number of Delhi’s Marginalised do not Have Access to Vaccines, Says Study

New Delhi: Marginalised sections of the population in Delhi do not have access to vaccination, says a recent study conducted by National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour (NCCL-CL). The survey for the study was carried out between May 22 and May 25, and aimed to assess the levels of vaccination among the marginalised in Delhi, the section of the population which does not hold salaried positions and does not enjoy the security of tenure.  A total of 1,034 responses to the survey were received, out of which 968 were found to be internally consistent and were analysed for the study.

The survey found that 535 out of the 599 respondents, that is, 89.3% of the respondents belonging to the age group of 18-44 years, and 108 out of the 332 respondents (62.75%) of the respondents in the age bracket 45-60 years had not received a single dose of the vaccine. Among the respondents above 60 years of age, 18 (51.4%) had received one dose. In total, only 208 of the 968 respondents (21%) had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

As much as 70% of the respondents informed the surveyors that none of their family members had received any dose of the vaccine. A large number of respondents (391) confessed that they had some fears about the vaccination process, 61% of whom said they had fears of the adverse effects of the vaccine.  Also, 54% respondents said that they were not aware of the vaccination at all.

In the foreword to the study, Justice (Retd.) Madan B. Lokur, said: “The study conducted by NCC-CL reveals the rather unsatisfactory state of affairs regarding vaccinating disadvantaged sections of society. These disadvantaged persons cannot afford hospitalization. They are, therefore, among those who should be given consideration, otherwise some of them may pass away and have their corpse thrown in some river and not been accounted for. In their case, it is not the virus that has caused the death, but poverty.”

Despite the Union government’s aggressive advertising campaign, 54% of the respondents stated that they were not aware of how and when to get vaccines and 47.6% stated that they were not even aware of the three platforms -- COWIN, Arogya Setu, and Umang Ap --  through which vaccination slots can be booked.

In a reflection of the digital divide, a total of 706 (72.9%) of the respondents said they were incapable of navigating through these platforms.  Incidentally, COWIN is available only in English.

The report pointed out that although smartphones seem to be a common presence in even lower income families, only 39.8% of the respondents stated that they had a valid internet connection. Only 16% of the respondents said that they would be able to arrange money for the vaccination of all members of their family, in case the government refuses to continue making the vaccines available for free.

The NCC-CL made several suggestions to the government, including reconsideration to restricting access to vaccines through only internet-based platforms, prioritising immunisation drive amongst the poor and the marginalised, taking proactive measures to create awareness and engaging with the communities in order to reduce vaccine hesitancy, and formulation of schemes to provide monetary relief for loss of wages suffered by daily wage workers.

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