Even as some countries have reported a surge in Coronavirus cases, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, executive chairperson, Biocon & Biocon Biologics, believes Covid-19 should be termed as an endemic and not a pandemic.
“The pandemic has become endemic now. You cannot get rid of any cases, but if you can get rid of hospitalization and severe cases and deaths, I think that’s okay. I am sorry to say this, but today the media thrives on bad news,” Mazumdar-Shaw told Fortune India.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declares a pandemic when the outbreak of a disease is exponential, affecting several countries and populations, whereas an endemic is a disease whose outbreak is confined to a particular region or geography.
According to the WHO, globally, there are 191 million active Covid-19 cases, while 4.09 million deaths have been reported. Not surprising that Mazumdar-Shaw believes too much is being made of the resurgence in the media. “It’s misleading. There will be a surge in certain cities if there’s going to be a football match or if there are a lot of people gathering. But those people are asymptomatic, or mild and not getting into hospitals. That’s the data you need to give,” feels Mazumdar-Shaw.
Though Israel has vaccinated 85% of its population, there has been a surge in fresh cases even from those vaccinated. The infection, however, is not as alarming given that the country from a high of around 10,000 new daily cases in January is now down to a seven-day average of 10 in June. Mazumdar-Shaw feels only cases that require hospitalisation need to be reported. “What do you mean by surging cases? There may be a few increase in numbers but are they getting hospitalised? Are they dying? They’re not, they are all very mild and asymptomatic cases. Even the media should move away from reporting cases to hospitalised cases,” quips Mazumdar-Shaw.
Similarly, even in the US, an increase in cases has been reported among the 90 million people who have yet to get their first jabs, but most of them are asymptomatic and mild. But unlike other countries, given the poor vaccination coverage in India, Mazumdar-Shaw believes “we have to be careful.” Of the 39 crore vaccinated in the country, while 31.25 crore have received their first jabs, only 7.76 crore got their second dose. As a result, the proportion of fully vaccinated citizens stands at a dismal 6.2%.
While the tally of recovered individuals in the country stands at 3.04 crore (as of July 19), 4.14 lakh have succumbed to the virus. But what’s pertinent to note is the recovery rate now stands at 97.31%. The number of active Covid-19 cases stands at 3.11 crore (as of July 19), according to the Union ministry of health and family welfare.
Mazumdar-Shaw, however, is confident that eventually the pace will gain ground across states. “I’m very confident that in Bangalore, for instance, by the end of July we expect to vaccinate 80% of our adult population. I feel very safe with that number, if I am vaccinated. I’m never saying I won’t get infected, but I know it’s not going to be serious. That’s the data we really need to generate. I would like to collect data on what happens to people who get infected,” adds Mazumdar-Shaw.
In fact, Mazumdar-Shaw went to the extent of stating that many of her close friends, and those in her close circle were re-infected, either after vaccination or after Covid-19. “But none of these people had severe disease. In fact, 90% of the people who have tested positive have had asymptomatic disease. And after a week of having Covid-19 they have all got over it and no problems. So that gives me the confidence that we can come back to normalcy sooner than later.”
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