A few days ago some of my medicine batchmates insisted I join a webinar conducted by Stanford university medical school on Covid conditions in India for healthcare professionals and their loved ones.
I did join and it turned out to be an interesting learning experience. The take away from the webinar was simple, the reliance on data and statistics was very substantive.
The entire treatment, prevention and predictions were based on scientific data and not on intuitions and personal beliefs. Wherever there were doubts and uncertainties it was clearly communicated. The reliance on simple measures like oxygen was emphasised and medicines like ramdesivir/plasma therapy were considered of not much significance. Similarly a simple chest X-ray was considered more important than an early CT scan for patients with good oxygen saturation.
Now, compare this with another incident where a childhood classmate and a very dear friend of mine gave me a 15 minutes discourse on why one should not jump up and take the vaccine. He advised caution and suggested one must still wait for some time before taking the vaccine.This friend is a very successful entrepreneur, in the footwear industry, though being in the same class together, I remember his not so fond interest in academics and more so in science and life sciences. His belief and conviction on the vaccine was very firm, though he would take very lightly any of my suggestions on his business.
The opinion from the third category which includes accomplished people with a standing in their domain, mostly from social sciences, is what concerns me more. This category has a fondness for academics, reading and can endlessly debate on anything, without data or any scientific publications. It’s hard to explain or convince them as they debate for the sake of it without finally coming to any conclusions or take-aways.
These would mostly be bureaucrats, academicians, successful entrepreneurs etc, at the pinnacle of wealth or authority.
I am referring to these three incidents or categories for the simple reason that much of our intervention on how successfully we are able to handle this pandemic is related to this. The first and foremost is that Vaccine hesitancy has to go. This war against corona cannot be won even if twenty percent people have any kind of vaccine hesitancy.
The authorities handling this have to allay all kind of fear or apprehensions and still there would be some who would confuse or dissuade people from getting vaccinated. They too would have to be dealt with in a firm, stern and pragmatic manner. The hesitancy would be perhaps more in rural and semi literate settings, though one may find non compliant ones everywhere. We will have to handle it the way USA is doing or may be any other best practice anywhere. Speed is the key to vaccination.
A realistic target of 40% population getting jab in next two months, even if one dose would work well.
The second wave is still on and there is a lot to learn from this. It started in Maharashtra/Punjab/Chhattisgarh and then moved northward. The peak number of cases in Mumbai was around 12000 in early April from there it stabilised to less than 2000 in the first week of May. The peak in Delhi around 23/24 April was around 28000, from where it has come to less than 10000 on 14th May. If the country-wise reported data, with whatever inaccuracies (if at all), is analysed scientifically, a lot of planning and homework could be done. In my last blog on 17th April I and many like me had estimated that cases would start coming down in the first-second week of May. For me it was on the simple premise of the virus behavior globally in the second wave and the data received on dates and numbers from various sources from all across the globe. The assumption was 80 percent correct. So whatever planning we have to do keeping in mind an impending third wave, has to be done on the premises, pattern and data received from the countries where the third wave strikes.
The good thing is that some states have started to talk about such preparations. One only hopes that such planning and preparations are based on scientific data worldwide.
The final take away, in this battle against covid is that we will have to give up our ‘So So Approach. It’s an abbreviation for the term Social Science Approach.
This kind of approach is ubiquitous in our Indian setting and more so in the governance setting. It is different from the scientific approach where things are implemented at a quick pace,after decisions are taken subsequent to informed debates and discussions. In the ‘So So’ approach decision taking and their implementation doesn’t happen. One discussion, debate and meeting leads to the next and this cycle keeps going till the magnitude of the problem increases exponentially and panic sets in. This approach was inherited from the Europeans and more so the British legacy of the early 20th century when a lot of social ideas, invented by the then thinkers, were rampant in the western world. They have all but disappeared from there, but their remnants are very active and vocal in India. And in all fairness to the top levels of decision making, the fact is that most of the delay happens at the lower or the lowest levels whose hesitancy in putting up the note and the file is as inexplicable as the hesitancy to take up the vaccines. In these times of a pandemic of unprecedented proportions, such hesitations must go or should be shown the door. So So approach to a scientific problem will not work!To this add, the crime of relentless profiteering, one right in the heart of Delhi, at the now infamous Khan Market where hoarding of 200 plus oxygen concentrators in a well known restaurant defies all norms of sanity and humanity. The swift decisions and quicker, well intentioned actions would be our strongest tools in the fight against Covid. Last but not the least one has to be more careful whenever the numbers are receding.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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