Is India beginning to see a COVID-19 vaccine effect? In three southern states and two major cities for which data are available, the share of the elderly in total deaths has begun to decline after vaccinations began for this demographic, an IndiaSpend analysis of data and interviews with experts show. The decline in share is not necessarily because cases and deaths among younger people have increased.
India began vaccinating healthcare and frontline workers on January 16, 2021; people over the age of 60 (and those over 45 years, with comorbidities) from March 1; people between the ages of 45 and 59 from April 1; and people between the ages of 18 and 44 from May 1. As of 3.30 p.m. on May 12, India has injected 137.3 million people with one dose of either Covishield or Covaxin, and a further 37.8 million people with both doses. Among those aged 60 and above, nearly 39% have received at least one dose of a vaccine and just under 12% have received both doses by May 11.
Vaccination coverage varies substantially by region. Kerala has vaccinated over 54% of its population over the age of 60 with at least one dose, Karnataka 48% and Maharashtra 40%, while Tamil Nadu has the lowest at only 17%.
Both Covishield and Covaxin report a lowered likelihood of contracting mild, moderate and severe COVID-19 and of dying from COVID-19, two weeks after the first dose, and an even lower risk after receiving the second dose.
Since March of this year, the share of people aged 60 and above in Mumbai’s total COVID-19 deaths has steadily declined. By May 2021, the share of people aged 60 and above in total COVID-19 deaths has fallen to its lowest share since July 2020. It isn’t just deaths–the share of the elderly in new detected COVID-19 cases has fallen to its lowest point since May 2020 as well.
A similar pattern is visible in Pune. Since the middle of April, the share of people aged 60 and above in weekly reported COVID-19 deaths has fallen to its lowest point since July and could fall below 50% of deaths within two weeks if this trend continues.
Three southern states–Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka–show the same trend: The share of the elderly in total deaths has consistently fallen since late March. While the data for Tamil Nadu and Kerala are complete, the data for Karnataka are incomplete, but show the same trend.