India faces multiple challenges as it continues to battle the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The scramble for life-saving vaccines is perhaps the biggest of them all.
All health experts agree that vaccinating large sections of the population in the quickest possible time is the best and only way to prevent Covid-19’s third wave from wreaking havoc across the country the way the second wave recently did.
To understand where India is currently positioned in its war against the pandemic and what the road ahead may look like, India Ahead spoke to Indian-American doctor Dr Vincent Rajkumar, professor at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in the US and Editor of the Blood Cancer journal. Dr Rajkumar has followed India’s Covid crisis for the past year and undertaken a detailed analysis of the country’s pandemic-related data.
In this exclusive conversation, when asked about the New York Times article which suggests that India has massively under-counted its Covid cases and deaths, Dr Rajkumar said that according to his own estimate, India had lost many more people than what the official data revealed.
“There is no doubt that the actual figures are way higher than the official figures. Some believe it could be by a factor of 10. My own assessment is that India has very likely had at least a million Covid deaths by now,” he claimed.
“There is no doubt that the actual figures are way higher than the official figures. Some believe it could be by a factor of 10. My own assessment is that India has very likely had at least a million Covid deaths by now”
Explaining the factors that cause Mucormycosis, commonly referred to as Black Fungus, which has emerged as a major health concern in India during the second wave of the pandemic, Dr Rajkumar said, “What we know is that mucor is in the air, Covid-19 compromises a person’s immunity and steroids raise one’s blood sugar levels.
“There may be certain unknown factors behind such a large outbreak of cases in India including the possible use of industrial oxygen for medical purposes. But judicious use of steroids is key to avoiding the fungal infection,” he added.
Commenting on the new antibody cocktail launched in India recently by Swiss pharma major Roche, Dr Rajkumar said, “The antibody cocktail certainly works. We’ve seen it in many cases in the US and Europe. I would strongly recommend it though its steep price would be a deterrent in a country like India.”
Asked about the recently launched DRDO 2-DG drug that has been approved for use in the treatment of Covid-19 in India, Dr Rajkumar expressed his scepticism. He said, “The DRDO drug’s efficacy is in doubt. We simply don’t have enough data at the moment to believe that it can contribute in any significant way to the treatment of Covid.”
Talking about India’s vaccine crisis, Dr Rajkumar was of the view that India needed to do everything in its power to procure vaccines for its people at the earliest. While he strongly advocated against vaccine hesitancy and said people should take any vaccine they can get, this is what he said about Covaxin.
“It is surprising that Bharat Biotech hasn’t published its complete data on Covaxin yet which is why the WHO hasn’t endorsed it. The fact that many countries are not allowing entry to Indians vaccinated with Covaxin is a matter of concern. I hope the full data is published at the earliest so that this issue can be resolved.”
“It is surprising that Bharat Biotech hasn’t published its complete data on Covaxin yet which is why the WHO hasn’t endorsed it. The fact that many countries are not allowing entry to Indians vaccinated with Covaxin is a matter of concern.”
On the theory that Coronavirus may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan in China gaining ground in recent weeks with even Dr Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the US President demanding further investigation into the origin of the virus, Dr Rajkumar said, “While at the moment there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the virus was created in a lab or was a weapon in any biological warfare, I fully agree with Dr Fauci that investigation into the origin of COVID should continue. There is a lot we still don’t know about the virus and the WHO investigation doesn’t answer many questions.”
I fully agree with Dr Fauci that investigation into the origin of COVID should continue. There is a lot we still don’t know about the virus and the WHO investigation doesn’t answer many questions.
To know what advice he has for the Indian people and the government as we deal with the COVID crisis, watch our exclusive interview with Dr Vincent Rajkumar here.