Mitali Mukherjee and Faheem Younus. Photo: The Wire.
In a special conversation with Mitali Mukherjee, Dr Faheem Younus (vice president and chief quality officer and chief of infectious diseases, University of Maryland, UCH) said that he wasn’t overly concerned about the pace of vaccine rollouts being much slower than anticipated. Faheem said precision was much more important than speed and the general public needed to remain aware that an alternative to vaccines still exists i.e., wearing masks, maintaining hand hygiene and avoiding large crowds and gatherings.
He also pointed out that the recent surge in cases across areas like the UK, the US and parts of China were the result of “botched policies” and “mixed communication” by their governments, whereas nations like South Korea, that had been extremely careful also seemed to be struggling with a fresh spike in COVID cases.
On the subject of new mutations that are now coming to light, Younus said that medically speaking, he would rather have had to deal with a mutation that was 50% more deadly than 50% more transmittable, as that was a much bigger threat for health workers and nations.
He commented on the recent concerns that were raised around Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin (that was cleared by the Indian regulator before proper Phase III data was shared) and said that the onus was on the CEOs of these companies to be open, honest and transparent in their communication around testing and findings.
However, the big challenge going into 2021, he believed, was of rising inequality. Nations like Argentina and Brazil are hosting clinical trials for companies like Pfizer but are unlikely to get the actual vaccines anytime soon.