Critical Coronavirus Questions with Chirantan Chatterjee

Highlights from our most recent Digitomics Podcast “Coronavirus and Pandemonics in India” with Prof. Chirantan Chatterjee

About Professor Chatterjee

Professor Chatterjee is currently a visiting fellow and formerly a national fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. He is also an associate professor of economics and strategy at the Indian Institute of Management where he is also the chairperson of the center of management of health services. He specializes in the economics and global healthcare and pharmaceutical markets as well as written extensively in global peer-reviewed journals.

1. Coronavirus Needs Better Tools for Measurement

India’s measurement of the virus needs to improve in two main issues. First, make sure the tests have good quality. We are moving away from the false negatives and finally getting closer to the estimated numbers that epidemiologists and biostatisticians are reporting. The second issue is on the word stabilizing. There have been many discussions that the mortality rate in India is low compared to the rest of the world. However, India may be suffering from that kind of mismeasurement of mortality issues. This has created a stigma when trying to control the virus. For example, once folks come back that are long-term implications of that on the lungs and because of stigma issues, people are not even talking about their symptoms. And that can result in the fallout of patients that could be indirect negative externalities on mortality because doctors and nurses and healthcare systems are struggling too much with COVID care, leading to other COVID related deaths not being reported.

2. Influencers Need to Wear Masks

There are influencers on Twitter, et cetera, who are essential voices in the ecosystem, but they are just loitering around without masks. And that's a sad depiction of how we want to deal with this pandemic in terms of non-pharmaceutical interventions because in the time before an actual vaccine arrives, evidence suggests the only definite way to slow down this pandemic is by implementing these enforcement principles through universal masking in addition to other policies.

3. Those Who Would Sacrifice Health and Lives for a Temporary Economic Boost Would End Up Getting Neither

The virus has brought up more extensive debates on two fronts. One is whether health comes first before the economy or the economy comes first before health. And, and the other part of this debate is, what is the model of governance? Should we be a central model of management or a more decentralized model of governance? Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at Stanford and a Luohan Academy Academic Committee member, paraphrased Ben Benjamin Franklin's words, that "those who would sacrifice health and lives for a temporary economic boost would end up getting neither."

4. There Needs to be Rapid Vaccine Patent Harmonization

There are a lot of regulatory efforts there. I hope the patent offices across different countries, like let's say the European patent office or the Japan patent office or the Chinese CIPO or Indian patent office, along with the U.S. patent office's come together and harmonize the IP shoe on emergency authorization basis. And in fact, I do know if you go to this patent officer, so I'm, I'm going to be on a panel on the European intellectual property conference in September. This is what I'm going to say: there needs to be very, very rapid harmonization of IP in the context of vaccines so that there is no market failure, and the poorest of the poor anywhere in the world gets the vaccine somehow.

5. Cooperation is Critical

I'm relieved to have global country-level cooperation right now; the geopolitical situation and the science corporation are moving in different directions. So, while scientists are operating and medical doctors are sharing best practices across countries, I'm not sure that our national leaders are doing the right thing by ramping up tensions. And I'm mainly talking off the three countries; we are all talking about here in this podcast. I hope that all the national heads come together. This is not the time to fight with each other and do a one-upmanship. This is a time to sit down and make the earth a more inhabitable place for everyone.

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