[Editorial Analysis] Fighting the infodemic

Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Indian Council of Medical Research
Mains level: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

Context:

• A significant data project for systematic, long-term engagement with the COVID-19 pandemic awaits clearance from the ethics committee of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

• In collaboration with the health ministry and other institutions of national importance, the ICMR will pool a national clinical registry covering all COVID-19 patients who have been hospitalised.

• The institutions will mentor other clinical organisations involved in the response to the pandemic, to widen the footprint of the database.

• Both in the short and long term, the utility of a common repository for clinical data cannot be underestimated.

Key challenges:

• The biggest challenge that the pandemic has presented to health professionals and policymakers is a lack of standardised information.

• Amidst an infodemic, the world wasted valuable time in the pursuit of off-label miracle cures, ranging from a malaria drug to a vermifuge, on the basis of questionable or indifferent reports.

• Many reported results that would have been treated as anecdotal, were the world not in crisis mode.

• Even now, the long-term effects of the novel coronavirus remain in the realm of conjecture.

• Physicians are repeatedly calling for caution, as they report numerous yet anecdotal cases of recovered patients who return months after recovery with damage to organs.

• A unified database is essential for tracking patients over the long term, for their own safety, to propagate successful interventions globally.

• It will also help to examine how the virus may interact with other factors, like genetic makeup, comorbidities, location, climate and diet.

Critical questions:

• In the short term, a database would help to answer critical questions.

• What is the phone number of the nearest plasma donor? Which patients can be helped immediately by a newly discovered intervention?

• But to be completely useful, such a database should engage patients.

• They should be able to report changes in their condition directly to the database in an organised and delimited manner.

• It should automatically flag the need for intervention to the authorities, and points of interest to researchers.

Conclusion:

• A unified database of COVID-19 patients would streamline immediate responses and warn of future effects.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), consider the following statements:

1. It is a statutory body established in 1987 under the BIS Act 1986.

2. It is under the union ministry of Finance.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: A

Mains Questions:

Q.1) What are the key challenges associated with to combat with the pandemic?

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