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Surging COVID-19 cases not a cause for worry: Kiran Mazumdar- Shaw

The government reported 227 fresh cases of infections nation-wide the highest for a day on Monday.

March 31, 2020 / 01:11 PM IST

Surging coronavirus positive cases is not a cause for worry, biotech entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw said on Tuesday and voiced confidence that India would be able to manage the COVID-19 crisis so long it keeps the number of infected patients needing critical care small.

The government reported 227 fresh cases of infections nation-wide the highest for a day on Monday.

The death toll has risen to 32 and the total number of positive cases in the country was 1251.

"One thing we must not forget is we will have a surge in the number of positive patients. People should not worry about that," the Chairman and Managing Director of Biocon Ltd told 'PTI' in an interview.

"I think what we need to really worry about is the seriousness of the disease. And if the disease is serious, and they've got too many people coming into critical care, we will be overwhelmed. But as long as the numbers (those needing critical care) are small, we can manage. That's what we have to look at."

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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India has so far done reasonably well in efforts to halt the spread, in terms of declaring lockdown and quarantine measures and stoppage of flights but COVID-19 test rate is "woefully inadequate", according to her.

Mazumdar-Shaw expressed the view that the government should have pulled in the private sector earlier in the battle against the respiratory disease but now that it has been brought in, it has got into the act by making COVID-19 hospitals and other initiatives.

"Right now the whole feeling is the government wants to control everything, and they don't have resources. So, to keep the private sector out (earlier) was a mistake," she said.

She said the ongoing 21-day lockdown is very important time and absolute need of the hour, because 90 per cent of the people who are quarantined recover after just mild symptoms.

She admired the way Kerala is handling the COVID-19 crisis.

"...how very well Kerala has disciplined themselves... if you have to look at one State and commend, itis Kerala. Everything...from quarantining to strictly adhering to social distancing, and to the lock-down, they are I think the best," Mazumdar-Shaw said.

She also saw some silver-lining in the current challenges from the COVID-19 outbreak, noting that small companies have come up with great solutions in terms of low- cost indigenous diagnostic kit; some companies have joined hands to ramp up production of ventilators and personal protective equipment.

"Suddenly you realise how important public health is, how important communicable diseases are and how important it's for India also to be prepared in terms of such epidemics," Mazumdar-Shaw observed.

"It tells you that there is a need to be self-reliant in public health."

"...today you realise that may be ventilators will really not be a problem for India because you now have got enough capacity created with all these initiatives (to scale up production). I think, basically the silver lining is that it tells you that we do have lot of capabilities, we have not leveraged these capabilities adequately because we have under invested in the healthcare," she said.

"We have invested too much in other sectors without really investing in the basic (healthcare)."

Apparently sounding philosophical, Mazumdar-Shaw commented: "...and finally you realise that health is wealth. I think the world is also going to have a very, very different view of what quality of life is, and what real value of life is; You can have enough money but if you get COVID virus in a very bad way, there is nothing that can save you."
PTI
first published: Mar 31, 2020 01:05 pm

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