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Somersaulting Experts

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The somersaults the ‘experts’ have been taking during the Covid-19 pandemic have been mindboggling. It can only be imagined how hard it must be for governments around the world to plan and execute policy with the almost daily ‘recommendations’ based on the ‘latest findings’. First, a certain drug was recommended for its prophylactic and curative properties; then it was declared ‘ineffective’. Recent reports now say that it may be making a comeback. Plasma therapy was the miracle performer for almost a year and then it wasn’t. The same goes for steroids and the manner of their use. People were expected to appreciate the distinction between ‘airborne’ virus and ‘aerosols’. It can be said that science continues to develop and new truths emerge, but planning a national strategy to deal with the unprecedented crisis does need some constants to be effective.

When the vaccines were developed, there were more than a few mainstream scientists that denied their efficacy, even warned against them. The speedy approval granted to them was also severely frowned upon, encouraging opposition politicians to declare they wouldn’t get vaccinated. Once the vaccination started, instead of acknowledging the constraints under which the vulnerable and exposed sections were given preference, the demand was raised for it to be given to everybody at once as seventy percent immunisation was considered a must. Politicians picked up on some experts’ announcement that a third wave would hit the children, so their inclusion was demanded.

Now, a group of experts has gone back to first base and stated that trying to vaccinate everyone could take away from where it is needed most leading to a larger number of preventable deaths. At every stage in this developing story, it may be noted, it was suggested the government was at fault for not ‘consulting the experts’. The nation can only be grateful that common sense prevailed while deciding on action to be taken, otherwise it would have been like a car with an extremely drunk driver. It is not just the political leadership that must have found it hard to maintain balance, but also the doctors in the frontline who were expected to keep changing treatment protocols on almost a daily basis.

One of the problems has also been the tendency to rush to the press with the new discoveries for the five minutes of publicity instead of inviting scrutiny and responses from peers. This led to the spread of much misinformation among the general public and, probably, a lot of deaths. Having paid a heavy price, hopefully the necessary lessons are being learned by all concerned.