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Ex-chief of CSIR slams WHO’s ‘flawed methodology’ on ascertaining Covid deaths

Dr Shekhar Mande also said that WHO had failed to announce the pandemic at an early juncture and had also failed to criticise governments on their vaccine efforts.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: May 18, 2022 5:19:50 am
Dr Shekhar Mande (Image source:

Former director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Dr Shekhar Mande has criticised the World Health Organization’s (WHO) report on excess Covid deaths in India. “WHO methodology is clearly flawed,” Dr Mande told The Indian Express.

In an interview with The Indian Express in Pune, Dr Mande – who superannuated from the post of CSIR DG in April this year – pointed out that the number of deaths per million in South East Asia or Africa, the fraction of people who died of Covid-19, is way better than that in many affluent countries.

WHO had released new estimates on the worldwide death toll in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to which it had pegged India’s excess mortality (people who probably would not have died if there was no pandemic) for 2020 and 2021 at 47.4 lakh. Several other studies have shown India’s Covid-related death count at anywhere between 25 lakh to 60 lakh. In fact, the upper bound for the WHO study is even higher.

The Union health ministry has already objected to the methodology for collecting data and modelling used by WHO.

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“However, criticism is part of any major project that anyone, be it an individual or government, undertakes. Would the conduct of WHO or the Lancet be subject to criticism during the pandemic? Of course, their conduct is so pathetic at times that they should be embarrassed about it,” Dr Mande lashed out.

The scientist questioned whether the record of WHO and the Lancet medical journal was impeccable during the pandemic and said it was “clearly not,” citing instances.

“For example, the health agency (WHO) took a long time to realise and announce to the world the global pandemic, which was declared on March 11, 2020. They ought to have called it at least two months or even a month before. WHO took time, in fact a year’s delay, to recognize that the Covid disease is airborne,” he said.

“WHO has not been critical of certain governments that ought to have been criticised that they were not accelerating vaccines sufficiently. For instance, there has been a great vaccine inequity as countries in Africa and southeast Asia have not had equal access to vaccines and, in the process, WHO and the Lancet are promoting multiple booster diseases in countries that are affluent. The effort should have been to concentrate on countries that have not had access to vaccines,” Dr Mande said.

“When there were different waves of Covid-19, we were waiting – literally with bated breath – to check how and when it would impact where the population density is highest, where access to proper health care is not the best and where large numbers of people are at risk of developing severe disease. Have you seen that the disease was sweeping through the slums and killing people? We did not and this essentially points out the fact that Covid-19 has been a disease among the affluent. Even in India it has been a disease of the middle and upper-middle class. I had proposed a hypothesis on hygiene and that may or may not be acceptable. The thing though is that statistics speak for itself,” he said.

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