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Natural infection, 'not mass vaccination', offered robust immunity against Covid spread

By Rosamma Thomas* 

A slim book, just about 100 pages long, published by an obscure publisher, could well have sunk into complete oblivion. Its author, Amitav Banerjee, taught at a private medical college in Pune. In a previous avatar, he had been an epidemiologist in the Indian Army. 
The tired doctor was planning his second retirement, when he set his students tasks to analyze the spread of the Covid pandemic in the year 2020 – and random exercises began to spill over outside of regular work hours, as findings became more and more exciting.
“What started out as a chore soon gave way to excitement when we discerned a pattern suggesting that the pandemic was driven more by demographic and obesity profiles of different continents rather than any control measures, which were, for the most part, draconian and unprecedented…”
Dr Banerjee was striking on findings that he would recount in a series of articles in the National Herald and other websites. He would gain renown as a voice in the wilderness. Now, as the data comes in from across the world, it is becoming clearer and clearer that one doctor working with his students in Pune, India, probably arrived at the truth that the World Health Organization missed.
Read "Covid-19 Pandemic: A Third Eye" to understand what was in plain sight, waiting to be spotted and recounted – the lethality of the virus was grossly exaggerated in the early days of the pandemic, when it was calculated on the basis of hospital admissions, rather than infections in the general population. 
Fatality rate was initially estimated in a Lancet article at about 20%, then revised later to 0.27%! Models based on computer simulation were triggering fear, at a time when rational analysis through epidemiological surveillance may have been more helpful.
Science, the good doctor notes, quoting an essay in the British Medical Journal, was being suppressed by politics. There was clear conflict of interest between academics and commercial lobbies. 
“Going all out for mass vaccination with uncertain input on effectiveness was a big gambit. We have a vaccine against tuberculosis for decades which has zero effectiveness in preventing TB in the Indian population,” Dr Banerjee writes, in a book illustrated with cartoons from IIT professor Bhaskar Raman, who too studied data and statistics to unearth something wildly amiss in the dominant Covid narrative. 
But then, these were voices out of sync with the dominant narrative: “That’s the thing with intellectuals, they can be absolutely brilliant, but still have no idea what is going on,” says Woody Allen in Annie Hall, a line the doctor recalls.
It was clear to Dr Banerjee that mass vaccination was the wrong course of action – the virus was mutating at a rapid pace, and no vaccination could keep up with the pace of natural infections. “Everything from the diagnostic test on which so many policy decisions were taken, lockdowns, most treatment regimes, and the vaccines developed at warp speed, were on emergency use authorization modes, unprecedented in the history of public health.”
The virus was mutating at a rapid pace, and no vaccination could keep up with the pace of natural infections
By June 2021, an AIIMS-WHO study showed that nearly 70% of the Indian population had encountered the virus, and the majority of infections occurred without showing any symptoms. Worldwide, studies indicated that natural infection offered robust immunity. There was clearly no need for mass vaccination, for “duplicating nature’s efforts”. 
In declaring war on Covid, Dr Banerjee writes, the world bit off more than it could chew. At a time when much learning was possible through contact with patients, medical students were taught online, ostensibly to keep them safe. The irony of this situation is compared to closing down the National Defence Academy at a time of war.
Epidemiology is like a game of chess, the doctor notes. The clinician sees individual patients, the epidemiologist must seek the larger picture. “A good player sees all the chess pieces and also the combination of the pieces with each other. In a series of tables at the end of the book, Dr Banerjee explains the different factors that affect success in dealing with a pandemic in different countries.
The ideal reader for Dr Banerjee’s book would be the Union health minister and the prime minister of India – to them, the revelation that we in India have doctors like this author, plodding away in medical hospitals, should be a source of hope. The Government of India need not look to World Health Organization or health authorities in the US or Europe for leadership in public health. We have local expertise, and we need only the political integrity to heed them.
*Freelance journalist based in Kerala. Book reviewed: "Covid-19 Pandemic: A Third Eye" by Amitav Banerjee, Blue Rose Publishers, pp 107,  Price: Rs 200



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