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Vadodara administration drive: HCQ helping in containing Covid-19 cases, say docs as analysis begins

Authorities say that the analysis is ongoing as is the drive, in accordance with the ICMR recommendation for prophylactic use of HCQ. VMC Health Officer Dr Devesh Patel says, “The debate around HCQ is founded in the side effects of long term use of the drug for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other illnesses.

A health official examines a Covid sample at Ambawadi health centre in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. (Photo by Javed Raja)

Even as global studies on Covid-19 treatment are yet to arrive on a consensus on the benefits of administration of Hydroxychloro-quine (HCQ) to contain the transmission of coronavirus, the Vadodara administration has begun analysing the effects of the drug in containing the cases in the city. The Vadodara health department has prepared a report analysing its drive of administering HCQ since April, taking a sample of over one lakh residents who took a course of the anti-malarial drug as prophylactic.

Until Wednesday, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has administered the drug to 3.42 lakh persons, including health workers and other frontline staff. Each of these persons has or will have completed the entire course of the drug — 400mg twice a day for the first dose and 400 mg per week for a minimum of three weeks.

Of this, the administration has analysed a sample of over 1 lakh residents, who were mostly close contacts of positive persons and the effect of HCQ in containing the transmission of the virus. According to the analysis, of the 48,873 close contacts of positive patients who took one dose of HCQ, 102 turned Covid-19 positive and 12 succumbed to the infection whereas 48 of the 17,776 close contacts of positive patients who took two doses of HCQ turned positive and only one died. The study also states that of the 33,563 close contacts of patients who took three HCQ doses, 43 tested positive and one died.

Authorities say that the analysis is ongoing as is the drive, in accordance with the ICMR recommendation for prophylactic use of HCQ. VMC Health Officer Dr Devesh Patel says, “The debate around HCQ is founded in the side effects of long term use of the drug for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other illnesses… So far, HCQ has not been used as a prophylactic… To us, it has shown positive results. We have the numbers and not one person has complained of complications. The only side effect reported is mild gastritis, which is common with administering heavy medicines and can be effectively handled.”

Patel said the drug was administered to close contacts of positive patients in the cluster neighbourhoods of Nagarwada-Saiyedpura area of the old city, which was the city’s first red zone, with a population of around 5,000 persons, in the first week of April. The administration began its analysis in the first week of June.

The drug was also prescribed and promoted by the Baroda Muslim Doctor’s Association (BMDA), which has been a core partner of the administration to provide Covid-19 care and screening in minority-dominated areas. Dr Mohammad Hussain, president of BMDA, who also runs Faith Hospital in Panigate area of the city, has been continuously promoting the use of HCQ among the community even now.

Dr Hussain told this newspaper, “There are conflicting studies about the use of HCQ. While initially the US studies rejected it and cited side-effects, European countries backed its prophylactic use. In Vadodara, it has shown positive results. We have been able to restrict cases in clusters. Nagarwada no longer has a huge number of cases. We haven’t seen any one developing side effects.”

Hussain said that the BMDA took lead in promoting HCQ in the initial red zone areas that were mostly in minority-dominated areas. “There was a lot of resistance to the drive. When the administration approached us, we prescribed HCQ and also created awareness about the need to consent to the course. The result has been fruitful. Even in my hospital, I have ensured that all doctors and employees take HCQ as they are in the frontline. Thankfully, none has contracted the virus yet,” Hussain said.

A senior doctor from Gujarat Medical Education Research Society (GMERS)-run Gotri Medical College, the biggest Covid1-9 facility in the city that also caters to neighbouring districts, says, “Our residents and doctors are on rotational duty for seven days at a time. Almost all of them have completed at least two rounds… We haven’t seen our healthcare staff falling to the virus yet, barring a couple of cases where the source of infection could not be traced. Although HCQ, with or without Azithromycin and other supplements like zinc, will not help anyone who has tested positive, it definitely has an impact in preventive measures and reducing the complications.”

Officer on Special Duty Vinod Rao said that the administration had apprised the state government about its findings from the analysis so far.

“The task force of medical experts, including physicians and super specialists, have recommend and backed the drive to administer HCQ in cluster areas and high exposure cases. We have discussed the analysis and the results with the government. The benefits seem to far outweigh the debate around its risks and it has certainly helped in implementing the preventive strategies planned for the city,” Rao said.

On Wednesday, Vadodara’s Covid-19 tally stood at 2,338 with a current doubling rate of 25 days. The VMC, until Wednesday, declared 57 deaths after an audit according to ICMR guidelines.

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