By Sushil Kutty
President Donald Trump sacked his vaccine chief Rick Bright weeks ago over hydroxychloroquine differences. Bright has now told the US House health sub-committee that Trump’s claim that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready within 18 months is pure hogwash. He spoke of Trump cutting out several critical steps in the making of a vaccine and that could impact the vaccine’s safety.
Well, Trump could do with being a mite more bright even though everybody concedes he is compromised by being a businessman-turned-politician with a penchant for the overdramatic. Trump is also in a Presidential re-election year and cannot wait to take risks though political prudence says he should be extra vigilant in these days of the coronavirus, wear a mask all the time.
Bright warned the House panel that this was the “darkest winter in modern history” and a national coordinated response to coronavirus based in Science should be developed, meaning Trump should give up his disdain for Science and stop being anti-intellectual. To Trump, Bright is an irritating fellow, not worth giving the time of the day. But to the world at large there’s a message in Rick Bright’s warning to Trump and to the US health subcommittee.
One, get out of the pipedream that a vaccine will be ready in less than two years, if at all. Two, nobody forget that the “response” should be anchored in Science, not in untested and in many instances long discarded alternative systems of medicines like the ones touted by Modi’s Ministry of Ayush.
The Government of Narendra Modi, especially, shouldn’t waste time and resources in efforts to come up with an Ayurvedic vaccine or a Unanicare cure for Covid-19. Last heard, the MOHFW had 15 ‘alternative’ researches going on along these lines to fight Covid-19. One of them is to see if Covid-19 can be cured by Dabur’s Chawyanprash!
Modi should ask the yes-men surrounding him to get him a transcript of Bright’s testimony to the US House panel. It will be an eye-opener. Bright’s coordinated response includes establishing a countrywide testing plan. A national public awareness campaign. And equitable distribution of medical supplies to hospitals and states.
But it’s his ‘based in science’ emphasis that applies more to Modi than to Trump. This is not the time to divert attention to alternative systems of medicines. That can be done later after Covid is kept at bay with a vaccine. India should not retrace steps into bygone dark past. For much of what is Ayurveda, practiced and propagated by the BJP’s Hindutva propagators, is rooted in untested theories including the so-called benefits of gaumutra.
Incidentally, Trump sent Bright packing because he was against hydroxychoroquine and its proposed widespread use in treating Covid-19 without first testing the drug to see if it actually worked. For Trump the rejection of HCQ so summarily was nothing short of blasphemy. Trump’s disdain for Science is, however, matched, in some cases over-matched, by counterparts in much of the rest of the world.
According to Western media, Covid-19 is now “cutting a path of disease and death through Latin America.” Mass graves are the order of the day in Brazilian cities and hundreds of Ecuadoreans are searching for kin who went to hospitals and never returned. But ask somebody like Brazil’s Bolsonaro and he looks askance at the questioner and demands what can he do, resign?
These are leaders, who appear to have given up, know they cannot be ousted from power as of now when whole continents stand devastated. Latin America is definitely not where the Covid-19 outbreak can be dismissed so easily. Covid-19 has to be eradicated from all corners of the globe; it cannot be piecemeal riddance. No country can claim it’s free of the virus even if statistics say otherwise. Some outbreaks in some countries are scary to say the least.
Scarier still is to hear the squabbling over who gets first use of a vaccine, the United States or EU countries? It’s an ugly spat in which the poorer countries stand no chance at intervention, and definitely not when country leaders lay emphasis on unscientific systems of medicine.The latest we hear from the Modi Government is a study being conducted by the ministry of Ayush to see if Ashwaghanda, a.k.a ‘Indian Winter Cherry’ or ‘Indian Ginseng’, can be an alternative to HCQ or hydroxychloroquine.
The bright idea is to see the effect of Ashwagandha against Covid-19. If it can do what HCQ could may be do! Yes, nobody in India and the United States knows what HCQ can do forget about what Ashwaghanda can do! But, surely, Trump wouldn’t mind ordering a few billion Ashwaghanda tablets, who knows, if he hears about it? (IPA Service)