Goa Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant, on September 10, 2021, claimed that Goa had administered COVID-19 first dose vaccines to 100% of its eligible population.
"I congratulate our Doctors, Nurses and Healthcare Workers for administering the first dose of #COVID19 vaccines to 100% eligible population in Goa. I thank the people of Goa for their support in making this drive a huge success," tweeted Sawant. His tweet also received praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Shortly after this, on September 12, 2021, MyGovIndia, a citizen engagement platform of the Government of India, in a tweet, claimed that six states and UTs including Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Lakshadweep and Sikkim, have already administered first dose vaccines to 100% of its eligible citizens.
This was shared by many ministers and political leaders including Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya.
To put it in perspective, Ram Sevak Sharma, CEO of the Union Health Ministry's National Health Authority, which oversees the CoWIN platform, in an interview with IndiaSpend on May 29, 2021, had said that a person is free to get vaccinated at any place in the country for better mobility. "..if I took my first vaccine in Ranchi and now I'm in Delhi when the timetable comes up for my second dose, I should be able to get it in Delhi. There should be countrywide mobility factored in there," said Sharma.
In that case, the claims made by the central and state authorities are misleading because the first COVID-19 vaccine dose is also given to people who do not reside in that particular state or UT. This includes tourists, migrant labourers, etc. Since the states/UTs do not maintain a separate vaccination register for non-residents, both residents and non-residents are counted against the place's targeted population in the CoWIN tally.
In fact, many authorities, while making such claims, are not factoring in people who recovered from COVID-19 and are waiting the required three months before getting vaccinated.
Secondly, some of these claims are based on data culled from the electoral population which does not include all adult citizens of a state/UT. Till January 2018, around 64% of eligible voters were on the electoral roll.
To understand this further, FactChecker spoke to immunisation officers and health secretaries of these six states. Here's what they had to say.
Goa had administered 11,90,171 first dose COVID-19 vaccines till September 15, 2021, according to the CoWin portal. However, the projected adult population for Goa as of June 30, 2021, is 12,06,821, shows Unique Identification Authority of India's (UIDAI) projected 2021 population list. This means that more than 16,000 people are yet to be vaccinated.
When FactChecker contacted state immunisation officer Dr Rajendra Borkar, he said the target vaccination population was about 11.43 lakh and that they had met their target. "This statement is based on the electoral data of 11.43 lakh-odd people," said Borkar. "That was our target. At present we have given first doses to about 11.6 lakh people. CoWIN always shows a higher figure because at times there are duplicate entries. We go by our own records," he added.
Further, Borkar said that the eligible population for vaccination included pregnant women and COVID-19 recovered patients. The CM made the 100% vaccination claim on September 10, but the state kept administering the first dose and vaccinated more than 5,000 people with the first dose between September 11 and 14.
When asked about who were the people being vaccinated if all had already received the first dose, he agreed that few citizens of Goa may still be left. "There could be a few Goans also but they are a negligible percentage of the local population. But most are from the borders of Goa and Karnataka. Now factories are opening up and labourers and migrant workers are coming to get vaccinated. Now, most of these vaccinations are happening at construction sites," Dr Borkar said.
While the Sikkim government's official Twitter account retweeted the MyGovIndia tweet, Sikkim's principal secretary of Health and Family Welfare K Sreenivasalu said the state had not yet met their target of vaccinating their entire eligible population.
"We have vaccinated 95% of the population with first dose of the vaccines. Our target population is 5,36,728. We are still behind by more than 23,000 doses," said Sreenivasalu.
According to the CoWin portal, Sikkim had vaccinated 5,12,976 people with the first dose as of September 15, 2021, and is still vaccinating people to meet the target. Further, he also confirmed that Sikkim's vaccine centres are accepting people from all over the country so the number of people vaccinated till now doesn't only include residents of the state.
While most states are just racing to meet the targeted number, Himachal Pradesh's Health Secretary Dr Amitabh Awasthi said they are unclear about their targeted population. Awasthi told FactChecker that their claim of 100% first dose coverage was based on data from various sources.
"The target as per the Department of Economics and Statistics was 53.77 lakh and as per Health Ministry's data it was 54.3 lakh. It is very difficult to say which one is correct because we don't have the latest Census data," said Awasthi.
Himachal Pradesh has currently vaccinated 55,97,633 with the first vaccine dose. Although they've crossed the target figure, the people included in the data are from other states as well. "There are tourists and migrant labourers included in the number especially since we have the apple season going on in the state where thousands of labourers from other parts of the country such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are now being vaccinated here."
Days after the Centre made the claim, Lakshadweep was still administering first doses. When asked why, state immunisation and nodal officer Sabitha Hassan said they faced technical difficulties with the CoWIN portal. "In CoWIN, we had some issues. We could not update our daily entries because of poor network connection so that backlog entry is happening now," Hassan said. "As of now, we have vaccinated around 53,500 eligible persons for the first vaccine dose," she added.
When asked if the number only includes people from the state, she said "We barely have tourists coming from other states since we have an entry permit but there are migrant workers who are working here. They are being vaccinated now." She also said some people who have tested positive for COVID, or recovered patients who are waiting the three months to get a dose and those who cannot take the vaccine for medical reasons have not been included, but reiterated that this is a miniscule number. As per CoWIN, 54,017 people had been vaccinated in Lakshadweep with the first dose till September 15.
Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli
Although MyGovIndia and UIDAI have clubbed Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, the CoWin portal classifies both UTs separately. Both UTs have a projected adult population of 8,34,479, according to UIDAI. But, according to CoWIN, a total of 6,29,843 first doses (3,71,658 in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and 2,58,185 from Daman and Diu) had been administered in the UTs till September 15. This means that more than 2.4 lakh people are yet to be vaccinated in both UTs combined.
FactChecker spoke to Dr Meghal Shah, state programme officer and in-charge of vaccinations in Daman and Diu, who said a combination of electoral data and house- to -house surveys by the health team of Daman and Diu was taken to calculate the target population. Both UTs together have administered more than 1,600 first doses after the claim was made.
Shah said migrants from other states currently residing in Daman and Diu are being currently vaccinated, "Daman is an industrial town and we have scores of manufacturing units and there is a lot of migration of workers," When asked about the accuracy of the claim made by the central government, Shah said, "I'm not the one to comment on that but we have crossed our initial target."
Similarly, Dr Anil Mahala, immunisation officer of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, said targets are given by the Centre. "We only have to make sure we meet the target. To find out whether everyone has taken the vaccination, we have to conduct a door-to-door survey," Mahala said.
Lastly, the MyGovIndia claim included Ladakh, which was already verified and found to be misleading by FactChecker on July 13.
But this is not the first time such a claim has been made. FactChecker had also checked the claims made by officials from Bhubaneswar and Bengaluru Urban district about achieving 100% first dose vaccination coverage.