The government of India has challenged the estimates of the country’s Covid deaths by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The government has raised questions over the validity of the estimate model used by the international public health body.
On Thursday, the world health body that 14.9 million people were killed either by Covid-19 directly or due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society, with the global health agency estimating that India had 4.7 million fatalities.
Following the report, India strongly objected to the use of mathematical models by the WHO for projecting excess mortality estimates linked to the coronavirus pandemic in view of the availability of authentic data. The Indian government said that the validity and robustness of the models used and methodology of data collection are questionable.
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What WHO said on excess Covid deaths
As per the new estimates from the WHO, the full death toll associated directly or indirectly with the Covid-19 pandemic, described as “excess mortality”, between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 was approximately 14.9 million.
Excess mortality includes deaths associated with coronavirus directly (due to the disease) or indirectly (due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society). For India, the cumulative excess deaths associated with Covid-19 pandemic (mean) estimated by the WHO is 4,740,894.
In a technical note for India, WHO said the “estimates may not be regarded as the national statistics officially produced by India due to differences arising from the data and methods used by WHO.”
Centre’s response to WHO’s estimate
India has strongly refuted the global health body’s report, claiming that “WHO has projected different excess mortality figures for India citing multiple models, which itself raises questions on the validity and robustness of the models used.”
Contending that the country has an “extremely robust” system of births and deaths registration, the Union health ministry said, “In view of the availability of authentic data published through Civil Registration System (CRS) by Registrar General of India (RGI), mathematical models should not be used for projecting excess mortality numbers for India.”
The health ministry pointed out that the test positivity rate (another key variable used by WHO) for Covid-19 in India was never uniform throughout the country at any point of time.
Highlighting the flaw in WHO’s estimate model, the Centre said, “Such a modeling approach fails to take into account the variability in Covid positivity rate both in terms of space and time within the country. The model also fails to take into account the rate of testing and impact of different diagnostic methods (RAT/RT-PCR) used in different geographies.”
The government claimed that the reported figure by the WHO is “totally removed from reality”.
Disappointed by WHO, says VK Paul
Dr VK Paul, member (health), NITI Aayog expressed disappointment over the WHO report, claiming that the global health body chose to use “one size fits all kind” approach.
“You may apply that (estimate model) where the systems are poor. But to apply assumptions, based on a sub-set of states, based on reports that come from the websites and media reports and then you come out with an exorbitant number is not tenable. We are disappointed by what WHO has done,” Dr VK Paul was quoted as saying by ANI.
He added, “Unfortunately, in spite of our emphatic writing and rational communication at the ministerial level, they have chosen to use the number that are based on modelling assumptions – one size fits all kind of assumptions.”
“We understand that this report has covered what they label as excess mortality, in the year spanning Covid-19. India has been telling WHO via diplomatic channels with data that we don’t agree with methodology followed for us,” Dr VK Paul said.
This content was originally published here.