Words really cannot describe how bad the situation is in India right now. “Why should we care?” is a question too often heard, and anyone who doesn’t get it will probably not be swayed by Childhood Obesity News, so let’s just move on to the next point of interest. Exactly how serious is India’s plight?
That was a trick question, because no individual or institution, neither among the people “on the ground” nor the international observers, has any grasp of how deep the trouble is over there. It is known that earlier this week, 300,000 new cases were reported in a 24-hour period. In the big cities, it is suspected that as many as one out of three people are infected and would test positive if testing were available.
India’s multiple problem areas
The country is pretty much out of tanked oxygen, and in New Delhi, hospitals are packing two patients into a bed. On a chart of fatalities, the “curve” is less a curve, than a straight up-and-down line. And that picture is of only the recorded COVID-19 deaths. For NewYorker.com, Isaac Chotiner asked why the undercount is so shockingly extreme. Epidemiologist Ramanan Laxminarayan explained that…
[…] only one in five deaths is medically recorded, so we don’t know the cause of death for four out of five people in normal times. That has continued during COVID.
There are widespread discrepancies in the “cause of death” classification. If the patient suffered from any kind of pre-existing condition, there is a tendency, in many countries, to want to assign COVID-19 deaths to other causes. Also, with everything in such disarray, India is not equipped to sort the deaths neatly by age group. But bear in mind that an awful lot of the grownups who succumb to the disease are parents, so huge numbers of children have lost their mother or father, or are now full orphans.
Speaking of orphans, and digressing for a moment back to the United States, JAMA Pediatrics recently published a study estimating that 43,000 American children have lost a parent to the virus, and noting that these children are disproportionately Black. Then, there are those who have functionally lost a still-living parent to the debilitating effects of “long covid.”
Only about 8% of India’s incomprehensibly large population has received even one dose of vaccine. Partly this is attributable to an unwarranted sense of relief that the earlier waves of the pandemic were not worse. It seems as if the country just shrugged it off. Giant weddings, religious observances, political rallies, and sports events got back into full swing, with disastrous results. A recent development is the arrival of a new, double-mutant variant called B.1.617.
In many places all over the globe, the main takeaway lesson of the pandemic is, develop vaccines that can be administered while people are young, before they have a chance to form opinions about it.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “How COVID-19 Surged Again in India,” NewYorker.com, 04/20/21
Source: “Black children significantly more likely to have a parent who died of COVID-19,” Salon.com, 04/13/21
Image by Shantanu Dutta/Public Domain