Published: 28th September 2020
It's not a race: Why 'influential' immunologist Ravindra Gupta believes we need to take some time to get the COVID vaccine right
Global collaboration between scientists to work on the vaccine and understanding the virus is reassuring and will take science ahead quite a few steps, said Ravi Gupta
Politicians lack the will to allocate funds for public healthcare because it is a costly and long-drawn affair and one can only hope that the COVID-19 crisis will teach them why they need an investment in science, said Professor Ravindra K Gupta, recently named in Time's list of the 100 most influential people of 2020. Gupta is a clinical microbiologist at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Cambridge. Speaking to Kaveree Bamzai at The New Indian Express' e-Expressions, he added that we need to get the vaccine right the first time rather than race to finish it faster.
Global collaboration between scientists to work on the vaccine and understanding the virus is reassuring and will take science ahead by quite a few steps, he said. "The global cooperation has been unprecedented. The efforts behind the vaccine, across the country, have been remarkable. We need to sustain this," said Gupta. "I am certainly one of those who think that we need to get the vaccine right the first time. We are getting better at treating the disease and we can invest a few more months into research. I believe these months are going to be well invested. We have nine odd candidates and we want to choose the best few. It is not necessarily a race to see who makes it first but it is more about the quality - to see whether it is effective in the long run," said the professor, who has been hailed for having functionally cured the second patient of HIV.
Talking about the preparedness of medical facilities and the healthcare system during COVID-19, he said that there needs to be more investment in healthcare, "The UK was prepared for a significant first wave and the healthcare system just about coped with it but at the cost of other procedures and treatment. There was a lot of damage due to the diversion of the resources from critical healthcare like cancer treatment," he added.
There have been enough discussions about herd immunity setting in, but Gupta said that it would be quite difficult because lockdowns were imposed and the transmission of the disease had been hampered. The mortality rate in India is low and we have been proud of that, so is our government, but the professor said that the data at any point during a pandemic of this scale it is not reliable. "There are people who are not making it to the hospitals. There are people dying at home and these numbers are not being reported. So the data is not reliable at this point," he said. "India has a younger population and the disease is correlated to age so maybe age is a reason. It can also be the theory that tropical countries have more encounters with infectious diseases and thus the immunological memory helps them to cope with the virus," he added.