WHO Covid death estimation: The mathematical modelling approach adopted by the WHO to project excess mortality estimates related to COVID-19 suffers from erroneous assumptions and is unscientific and India had registered its strong objection to this methodology, the government informed Parliament on Tuesday.
India had objected to the "one size fits all" approach adopted by the WHO as it might be true for smaller countries but cannot be applied to a huge and diverse country like India which had varied case trajectories across multiple states and at different periods during the pandemic, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar said in a written reply.
She was responding to a question from the World Health Organization (WHO) stating that the number of people who died of COVID-19 in India is 47 lakh. As of July 16, 2022, as reported by states and UTs, 5,25,660 deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported in the country, the reply said quoting India's official data.
The WHO, based on a mathematical modelling exercise, has, however, projected an estimate of about 47 lakh excess deaths in India associated directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 pandemic, between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021. This is primarily an estimate of deaths due to all causes which includes deaths due to COVID-19 also.
"The mathematical modelling-based approach by WHO suffered from a number of inconsistencies and erroneous assumptions.
"India had highlighted against the classification of certain countries under tier-1 while they had displayed data inconsistencies in reporting and placing India under tier 2 while India has followed a robust system of data reporting," Pawar said in the written reply.
The minister stated that WHO was also asked to explain the unscientific approach wherein their projections were based on data from only 17 states and UTs obtained from websites/RTIs taken at varied periods of time and extrapolated to the entire country.
The study did not account for varied COVID-19 test positivity rates across the states and at different periods of time, besides the implications of using different diagnostic methods (RAT/RT-PCR) in different countries, she said.
According to the WHO’s own admission, their modelling exercise suffered from a number of limitations like limited representation and generalisation of variable utilised to settings that may be systematically different.
The Central Council of Health and Family Welfare, a representative body of health ministers from all states and UTs of India, constituted under Article 263 of the Constitution of India, has passed a unanimous resolution against the WHO’s approach in this regard and authorised the Union Health Minister to convey their collective disappointment to the WHO, she said.
"India had registered a strong objection to the process, methodology and outcome of this unscientific modelling approach especially when India had provided authentic data published through Civil Registration System by Registrar General of India to WHO.
"India’s approach to COVID-19 management is in line with test-trace-isolate-treat approach along with COVID-19 vaccination and consistent use of mask, hand hygiene, physical distancing and other preventive measures as advocated by the WHO and other global public health organisations," Pawar added.