Ask the India Institute Anything | COVID-19

India Institute experts headshots on a while background Bhakti Hansoti, Brian Wahl, Judy Bass, Mathu S, MAtt Robinson, Naor Bar-Zeev, Robert Bollinger, Sunil Solomon

Brought to you by the India Institute and Hopkins at Home

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a dramatic impact on public health across the globe and while many countries are seeing a decline in COVID-19 cases, India is experiencing an alarming surge. The India Institute, in partnership with Hopkins at Home, is inviting students, faculty, staff, and alumni to bring their questions to experts from Johns Hopkins using a flexible AMA-style platform that allows them to ask questions as they arise, and on their own schedules.

Our panel of experts is looking forward to answering your questions, sharing their answers for all to see. The virtual bulletin board will be active for the three weekdays. You can submit your question at any time during that period and simply check back later for an answer; experts will post their answers within a day’s time.

Questions and answers will be public, and though we can’t guarantee that all questions will be answered, moderators will be coordinating with experts to answer as many of your questions as possible. No question is too big or too small; we want this to be a space where you can go to better understand all facets of the COVID 19 election.

The India Institute and the Alumni Association welcomes a diversity of thought and opinions, however, we do ask that your questions and comments remain respectful and on-topic. We reserve the right to delete any questions that are demeaning, harassing/hostile, or derogatory in nature.

How do I ask a question?

  • Create an account or login to your account at the top of this page.
  • Type your question below.

Here are some guidelines to ensure that you, along with the rest of our community, have a positive experience:

  • Have a question? Please take a look through the topics below. If you see the same or a similar question already posted, you can join that discussion and add your question. If you don’t see a similar question, please submit your question below as a new topic.
  • Our experts will be checking questions intermittently, so drop back in later to see whether your question has been answered.
  • Questions and answers will be public, and though we can’t guarantee that all questions will be answered, moderators will be coordinating with experts to answer as many of your questions as possible.

Meet our Panelists
(top row, left to right)
Naor Bar-Zeev, PhD, Associate Professor of International Health
Judith K. Bass, PhD, Associate Professor of Mental Health | Center for Global Health
Robert C. Bollinger, MD, MPHRaj and Kamla Gupta Professor of Infectious Diseases | Professor of Medicine, Public Health and Nursing | Director, Center for Clinical Global Health Education | Associate Director for Medicine, Center for Global Health
Bhakti Hansoti, M.B.Ch.B., MPH, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine

(bottom row, left to right)
Matthew Louis Robinson, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine
Mathuram Santosham, MD, Professor of International Health, Epidemiology, and Population, Family and Reproductive Health
Sunil Solomon, M.B.B.S., MPH, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Medicine
Brian Wahl, PhD, Assistant Scientist, Department of International Health

Click each question to see its answers.
How does the efficacy of the Indian vaccines (Covishield and Covaxin) compare to that of the American Pzifer, J&J and Moderna vaccines?

Asked by tchatte1 on Tue, 06/08/2021 - 15:23. 1 person subscribed to this question.

Answers (1)
Robert C. Bollinger MD, MPH
Questions and Answers Top Contributor
Fri, 06/11/2021 - 09:59
The Covishield vaccine manufactured in India is actually the Astra-Zeneca (AZ) vaccine developed by Oxford University. Data published in March 2021 from a clinical trial conducted in the US, Peru and Chile reported a 76% reduction in risk of symptomatic COVID-19 in volunteers given 2 doses of the AZ vaccine vs. volunteers given placebo shots.

The Covaxin is a vaccine developed and manufactured in India by Bharat Biotech. The Covaxin vaccine is manufactured in a similar way to most polio vaccines, using a procedure to inactivate (“kill”) a strain of SARS-CoV-2 that was originally isolated by the National Institute Virology in Pune. Covaxin is the only vaccine that has been tested for efficacy in India in a trial that began in November 2020 in India. This trial is not yet completed, but the company has provided preliminary data and an independent group of Indian experts have reportedly reviewed the data. In January 2021, the company’s initial press release from the trial reported an efficacy of 81%. Recently, as more data have come in, the company has updated the estimated efficacy to 78%. The company has said that the final safety and efficacy data from the trial will be made available this month and submitted to a peer-reviewed publication. Because the data are not yet publicly available, unlike the other 4 vaccines on your list, Covaxin is not yet on the WHO’s ’emergency use list’ (EUL),

Published data for the other vaccines report an efficacy of 95% for Pfizer, 94% for Moderna and 66% for the J&J (Janssen) for prevention of symptomatic COVID-19. Most importantly, all 5 of the vaccines have reported even higher rates of protection against hospitalization and death.
Can you give an overview of what might be happening in rural areas vs. urban areas? Most of the news seems to be focused on urban areas.

Asked by on Thu, 06/10/2021 - 09:23. 1 person subscribed to this question.

Answers (1)
Robert C. Bollinger MD, MPH
Questions and Answers Top Contributor
Fri, 06/11/2021 - 09:25
This is an excellent question. One of the challenges for understanding the COVID-19 pandemic all over the road, is the uncertainty of the available data. This is not unique to India. In most places, including India, data from urban settings are generally more accurate and reliable, than data from rural settings. Thus official reports from rural, remote settings generally underestimate the real burden of infection. This makes it challenging to compare.

Access to testing and willingness to get tested can be different in rural vs urban communities for a variety of reasons. However, it appears that in many urban settings that were surging a month ago, case rates are decreasing and hospitalizations are decreasing. It does appear that in some rural settings, rates of new cases has increased. But, unless testing is widespread, accurate estimates of what is happening are difficult.

One alternative way to assess the situation is to track the hospitalization and death rates in the community. If hospitalizations and deaths due to pneumonias are increasing in a particular rural district, it would raise concerns that this is due to COVID-19, even if testing is limited.
I plan to travel to India in February 2022 and I am fully vaccinated. Yet, it was recently reported that a golfer was fully vaccinated and tested positive for Covid-19, after he did report being in the presence of someone who was positive. Does this mean a person could transmit the virus to other individuals who are not fully vaccinated? I will certainly plan to wear a mask, but do not want someone to quarantine me in a hotel since I have no way of knowing that I was in the presence of an unvaccinated person. I am also traveling to Belize in July 2021 with 2 adult grandchildren who are fully vaccinated and don’t want any surprises - like quarantine!

Asked by on Fri, 06/11/2021 - 19:24. 1 person subscribed to this question.

Answers (0)

No answers yet!

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