Debunking Covid-19 Misinformation: Exclusive With Author Anirban Mahapatra

Covid-19 cases are surging, but so are misconceptions around the coronavirus. As India experiences a fast-growing second wave of coronavirus, WhatsApp forwards and hearsay is making it difficult to separate fact from fiction.

NewsMobile’s Senior Editor Shivangi Shukla spoke to Anirban Mahapatra, author of COVID-19: Separating Fact from Fiction, in an exclusive conversation from Washington D.C.

What are the misconceptions around Covid-19?

The biggest misconception is that Covid-19 is not a serious disease. We are seeing people not wearing masks or social distancing. There is a thought that if a small percentage is succumbing to the disease then that is not a concern. That is not the right way to deal with it.

The second misconception is that the vaccines are not safe at all. The vaccines are safe and have gone through a rigorous testing process through trials. Some minor rare incidents have been found but that is again very rare.

The vaccines are effective in preventing Covid-19. Another misconception is that if you get vaccinated, you will get a positive RT-PCR test. That again is not true.

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India has overtaken Brazil as the second worst-hit country by the pandemic. What do you think will be the most effective strategy for governments to deal with the second wave of Covid-19? 

A number of things have to be taken into consideration by the government. Economic and implementation is a point to consider. The purpose of the lockdown is to make sure that the ICU beds are not overrun. Areas, where vital drugs are not available, are the places where lockdowns are being implemented. Just implementing night lockdowns for disease control is probably not going to be effective.

The U.S. and other countries are in the race to get their citizens vaccinated.  Which precautions one must take post getting the jab?

Washing hands and wearing masks should be continued by those who have the vaccine. The purpose of vaccination is two-fold. Someone might say why should we take the vaccine if we still have to follow protocols. We have to do it till a sizeable number of the population has been vaccinated. The vaccine protects you and also protects others and some vaccines work better than others, especially as we learn more about other variants of Covid-19.

What about vaccines passports? Will that help open travel across the globe?

Vaccine passports under controversy because some people are worried that vaccine passports will create a tier system between people who have vaccines and people who don’t. I think a vaccine passport is a good idea, for example, if you are going to some countries in Africa then you need to have a yellow fever certificate so it is something that exists already.

New innovations such as the nasal spray, like the one from SANOTIZE, are undergoing clinical trials to combat covid-19. How effective can they be? 

There are many drugs doing trials where the mode of delivery is through the nasal route. If the nasal sprays get approved then this will definitely be a game-changer. I do want to say some drugs which are monoclonal might provide passive immunisation. I would advise against taking any nasal spray from the pharmacy until they have been approved. Do not fall prey to WhatsApp forwards on the same.

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In India, the elder are first in the queue to vaccinated. How do young people safeguard themselves in the meanwhile?

The same measures the younger populations took last year need to be repeated. Make sure you are wearing a tight-fitting mask, washing your hands and continue working from home. In the US, a UK variant is more infectious in younger people, so the younger population should remain on high alert.

Like you wrote in your book, coronaviruses were quite common at the beginning of the century. What makes this coronavirus especially more difficult to contain?

The main thing here is that it causes serious disease and is deadly. Infectious and severity do not correlate. For example, H1N1 outbreak in 2009 was mild and therefore not as threatening as Covid-19. Covid-19 is especially difficult to contain because of the severity.


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