The pace of vaccination in the country is increasing with an average of over 60 lakh vaccinations taking place on a daily basis. But it faces the challenge of a gender gap: 54 per cent men have received the vaccine compared to 46 per cent women -- a gap of 8 per cent. In terms of population, India has only 5 per cent more men than women.
For some misinformation is a barrier. Saroj Gupta, 40, lives in a one-room accommodation at a slum in South-West Delhi's Munirka. Her husband works as a security guard and the couple have four children.
"I am scared because a lot of people get pneumonia, fever or face a lack of oxygen post-vaccination. I fear that if something happens to me, who will take care of my four children? I don't want to get vaccinated," she told NDTV.
Asked whether any government official or Asha worker came to her house to tell her about the vaccine, Saroj said, "Nobody came."
Sangeeta, 32, struggles with accessibility. She works as a domestic help and earns barely Rs 5,000 a month. "I went to the nearby centre and it is not available there. I can't travel far. It is hard to get a seat in a bus these days. The autos charge very high fares. I can't afford that," she said.
The gender gap is highest in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Only 42 per cent of the vaccinated people are women, men account for 58 per cent.
Only four states are vaccinating more or equal women -- Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh.
Dr VK Paul, chairperson of National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 ( NEGVAC) admitted the issue this week and said, "The gender imbalance needs to be corrected in the days ahead. Where this imbalance exists, it has to be addressed and we have to make it easier for women to access vaccines and this is a lesson for the future."
Public health experts say the solution is to create greater awareness on the ground.
Dr Suneela Garg, Member of Lancet Commission Covid-19 Task Forcem said: "Firstly, the vaccine hesitancy among women has to be reduced by clearing their misconceptions. ASHA workers will have to reach out to them on a door-to-door basis and ensure that these women are empowered through the right knowledge. Secondly, in the Indian setting women are heavily dependent on men for accessibility to resources so awareness will also have to be created among men. They should be told that they should not only go and get themselves vaccinated but ensure that they also take the women in their family along with them."