Skip to main content

Why the issue of gender gap in vaccination is a community problem


By Simi Mehta, Sakshi Sharda, Swati Solanki, Mahima Kapoor, Arjun Kumar
The need to address the vaccination gap through a gendered lens is imperative. COVID-19 is an issue that is being tackled globally, however, the need to address discrepancies in the same has been absolutely pivotal.
IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a special talk on The Gender Gap in Vaccination with Prof Vina Vaswani as a part of The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps series.
Professor Vina Vaswani, Director, Centre for Ethics, and Professor, Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Yenepoya (Deemed to be) University, Mangalore was the eminent speaker of the session. Professor Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai chaired the session. Dr. Mala Ramanathan, Working Editor, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (IJME) and Dr. Medha Rajappa, Professor of Biochemistry and Associate Dean (Research), JIPMER, Pondicherry joined in as discussants. The discussion aimed to address several important points of gender sensitization, tackling fake news, marginalised communities and responsible dissemination of news and vaccines.

Addressing the issues with vaccines

Professor Vibhuti Patel steered the discussion into discussing the statistics of the vaccinated population in India. Around 47% of the women had received vaccinations while 52.5% of men have been able to avail the vaccination along with a negligible and almost minimal number of people from the trans community has been able to get vaccinated. This data opened a plethora of questions for the panel to discuss. Namely, how this gap is supposed to be addressed along with the socio-cultural connotations for the same. Also, the discussion should focus on how the regional disparity along with the gender disparity played an important role when places like Himachal Pradesh and Chattisgarh are still lacking to cope up with the vaccine gap. It is also necessary to address the state-led initiative to cover this gap and make it effective, so as to how it is dealt with on a macro aspect along with the contribution of the private players.

A gendered approach to vaccination

Prof Vina Vaswani opened the floor for discussion by bringing forth a data-driven approach along with her own experience during her initial days of working with the community on the field to address the issue of ‘hesitancy’ and the perpetual lack of vaccinations amongst women. She spoke of how the notion of ‘contraception’ which was something to be exercised by the woman as it pertains to her autonomy and agency is more often than not exercised by her husband or her family which highlights the very core structural problem of Indian society. This opened avenues of thought regarding how the issue of vaccination is often a community problem than an individual problem.
The next most important take on the issue was discussing the role of women during clinical trials. Very often, pregnant, lactating, or chronically ill women have been excluded from vaccination trials without proper research being conducted into their well-being and also ensuring adequate consent if they have been included in any. This discrimination persists in the field of the COVID-19 vaccination and continues to pose a problem. “Religious and minority groups, why do they feel so secluded? It is because we are making them feel so,” asked Professor Vaswani while explaining how the preconceived judgments, notions and lack of awareness also contribute to the gap and the growing skepticism of certain groups from not being vaccinated.
Lastly, she also touched on the transgender community which faces constant discrimination at the hands of the government authorities while producing identity proof regarding vaccines and often hesitate from participating in vaccination drives due to the lack of respect shown towards them. Thus to overcome these issues the need for a social contract-based approach to immunization should take place along with universalization of the drive which will promote the welfare of the citizens.

Busting myths of the COVID-19 vaccines

Dr Rajappa drawing from pointers introduced by the previous speaker emphasised specifically on the preconceived ideas which the society has regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and the inhibitions that prevent them from getting vaccinated. She specifically focussed on the news spread by the ‘Whatsapp University’ which often seemed to regurgitate old knowledge and give them a spin to prevent the public or cause anxiety or panic regarding how vaccinating can be apparently ‘dangerous’ for people. She spoke of how the marginalisation also takes place and the universalisation of the vaccine is important as the fees often become a factor of hindrance.
“There needs to be intensified drives to dispel the propaganda by the Whatsapp Universities and wrong information about the vaccine,” she iterated by pointing out that there needs to be a multi-pronged approach to overcome this problem much like the polio campaign. Some solutions proposed were the promotion of communication advocacy, organising flash mobs, programmes and encouraging youth participation along with greater accessibility to information to dispel the myths of vaccination. An effective engagement can be carried out with the help of anganwadi workers who are the focal point for communication with women specifically in many areas.

Data gap and gender gap

Dr Ramanathan discussed the issue by bringing forth the point of a larger data gap in the information about which the discussion was taking place. The lack of a comprehensive database is often a tool which hinders a wholesome comprehension of the larger issue in place which needs to be looked into. “The exclusion of women from trials has been an issue which persists from 1977 and still persists,” she said, pointing out the medical implications of the trial. By analysing the projected population data she showed how some of the leading states of India are nowhere near achieving a sense of parity between men and women being vaccinated which raises several issues of concern.
She discussed how lactating and pregnant women may not have been vaccinated thus contributing to the gap till it was deemed suitable for them to get vaccinated and thus contributed to the backlog. She proposed that larger groups of women must be mobilised especially the ASHA workers who have been working at the frontline with them especially focussing on elderly women. Need for addressing vulnerable groups and inter state gaps and language barriers should also be a primary focus as it pushes several people into the marginalised section preventing them from accessing better healthcare.

Acknowledgement: Srimoyee Biswas, a Research Intern at IMPRI

Comments

TRENDING

CAG’s audit report creates a case for dismantling of UIDAI, scrapping Aadhaar

By Gopal Krishna  The total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project and its cost: benefit analysis has not been disclosed till date. Unless the total estimated budget of the project is revealed, all claims of benefits are suspect and untrustworthy. How can one know about total savings unless the total cost is disclosed? Can limited audit of continuing expenditure of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an instrumentality of Union of India be deemed a substitute for total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project of UIDAI? It has been admitted by CAG that the audit of functioning of the UIDAI is partial because of non-transparency. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India arising from performance audit of functioning of the UIDAI for the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19 is incomplete because it is based on statistical information “to the extent as furnished by UIDAI” upto March 2021. There is also a need to compa

Women for Water: WICCI resource council for empowering women entrepreneurs, leaders

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The Water Resources Council of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry is formed for 2022-24. A National Business Chamber for Women, the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry ( WICCI ) is a premier association empowering women entrepreneurs and leaders in all walks of life through advocacy, pro-active representations to government, implementing projects for women via funds allocated by various government agencies and corporates, plus bringing awareness on all issues that concern women. WICCI boosts and builds women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, institutions, global trade and networks. WICCI enables fundamental changes in governmental policies, laws, incentives and sanctions through proper channel, with a view to robustly encourage and empower women in business, industry and commerce across all sectors. WICCI is supported by the massive global networks of ALL Ladies League (ALL), Women Eco

75 yrs of water in India: whither decentralised governance to sustain the precious resource?

By Shubhangi Rai, Megha Gupta, Fawzia Tarannum, Mansee Bal Bhargava Looking into the last century, water resources management have come a long way from the living with water in the villages to the nimbyism and capitalism in the cities to coming full cycle with room for water in the villages. With the climate change induced water crisis, the focus on conservation and management of water resources if furthered in both national and local agenda. The Water management 2021 report by NITI Aayog acknowledges that water and sustainability are of immense importance for the sustenance of life on earth. Water is intricately linked to the health, food security and livelihood. With business as usual, India’s water availability will only be enough to meet 50% of its total demand and 40% of the population in India will have no access to drinking water and sanitation by 2030 . Its Composite Water Management Index 2021 states that ‘India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and mil

Grassroot innovations in water management: Policy challenges amidst climate change

By Shubhangi Rai[1], Megha Gupta[2], Mansee Bal Bhargava[3] India despite of having a vast traditional water management history continue to struggle with water crisis from disasters like floods and droughts but more with social distress leading to asymmetric access to water goods and services. The rising water crisis in a country that is abundant in water resources and wisdom is worth questioning and resolving. The knowledge that was passed on by our ancestors who used a diverse range of structures that helped harvest rainwater locally besides replenish and recharge the groundwater along the way. Formal and informal rules were locally crafted by the community on who to use the water, how much to use, when to use, how to penalise for misuse, how to resolve conflicts and many more. As a nation, we need to revive our dying wisdom of the traditional water management systems and as water commons, enable the governing mechanisms towards sustainability. In the session on ‘ Grassroot Innovatio

Need to destroy dowry, annihilate greed and toxic patriarchy in India

By IMPRI Team Talking about an evil ever-persistent in our society and highlighting the presence of toxic patriarchy, #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on Destroy Dowry: Annihilation of Greed and Toxic Patriarchy in India under the series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps on May 4, 2022. The chair for the event was Prof Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and a Visiting Professor, IMPRI. The distinguished panel included – Asha Kulkarni, General Secretary at Anti Dowry Movement, Mumbai ; Kamal Thakar, Sahiyar Stree Sangathan ; Adv Celin Thomas, Advocate at Celin Thomas and Associates, Bengaluru; Shalini Mathur, Honorary Secretary, Suraksha Dahej Maang Virodhi Sanstha Tatha Parivar Paraamarsh Kendra, Lucknow and Secretary, Nav Kalyani Foundation, Gender Resource and Training Centre; and Dr Bharti Sharma, Honorary Secretary, Shakti Shalini

Impact of climate change on Gujarat pastoralists' traditional livelihood

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Karen Pinerio* We are sharing a study[1] based learning on climate resilience and adaptation strategies of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat. There are two objectives of the study: (i) to examine the impact of climate on traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Gujarat state; and (ii) to explore and document the adaptation strategies of pastoralists in mitigating climate adversities, with a focus on the role of women in it. In order to meet these objectives, the research inquiries focused on how pastoralists perceive climate change, how climate change has impacted their traditional livelihood, i.e., pastoralism in drylands (Krätli 2015), and how these pastoral families have evolved adaptation strategies that address climate change (CC)/ variabilities, i.e., traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat state. Pastoralism is more than 5,000 years old land-use strategy in India; it is practised by nomadic (their entire livelihood r

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and emerging geopolitics

By IMPRI Team In the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, #IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a panel discussion on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and Emerging Geopolitics. The event was chaired by Ambassador Anil Trigunayat (IFS Retd.), Former Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Libya, and Malta; Former Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Moscow. The panelists of the event were Prof Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University; H.E. Freddy Svane, Ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy, New Delhi; Maj. Gen. (Dr) P. K. Chakravorty, Strategic Thinker on Security Issues; and T. K. Arun, Senior Journalist, and Columnist. Ambassador Anil Trigunayat commenced the discussion by stating the fact that wars are evil. He opines that no war has ever brought peace and prosperity to any country and

Making Indian cities disaster, climate resilient: Towards actionable urban planning

By IMPRI Team  Three-Day Online Certificate Training Programme on “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”: Day 1 A three day Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”, a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) , Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, was held at the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. Inaugurating the session Ms. Karnika Arun, Researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. Day 1 of the program included Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI as conveners, an

Gender gap: Women face disproportionate barriers in accessing finance

By IMPRI Team Women worldwide disproportionately face barriers to financial access that prevents them from participating in the economy and improving their lives. Providing access to finance for women is crucial for financial inclusion and, consequently, inclusive growth. To deliberate and encourage dialogue and discussion for growth, the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) of IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a web policy talk by Mr S. S. Bhat, Chief Executive Officer Friends of Women’s World Banking India, Ahmedabad on ‘Access to Finance for Women’ as a part of its series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. The session was started by the moderator, Chavi Jain, by introducing the speaker and the discussants and inviting Prof. Vibhuti Patel to start the deliberation. Importance of access to finance for women Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI, New Delhi; Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, began by expre

Hindutva patriotism: State-sponsored effort to construct religion-based national identity

By Harasankar Adhikari Rabindranath Tagore (1908) said, "Patriotism can’t be our final spiritual shelter. "I will not buy glass for a diamond, and I will never let patriotism triumph over humanity as long as I live." Tagore’s view stands in sharp contrast to what we are witnessing today, when patriotism means religious differences between the majority (Hindu) and minority (Muslim). Our secular nation is gradually disobeying its secular nature and it is being patronised by political leaders and their narrow politics. India’s unique character of ‘unity in diversity’ is trying to be saffronised. Hindu extremism (Hindutvavadis) generates a culture of religious intolerance. Democratic India is based upon the ideology of equality of all. This nation is based upon different foundations than most of those which went before it. Its legitimacy lies in its being able to satisfy its various component communities that their interests will be safeguarded by the Indian state