Validity of models, questionable data collection methodology: India on WHO report on Covid deaths

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India on Thursday strongly opposed the use of mathematical models by the World Health Organization (WHO) to project excess mortality estimates related to the coronavirus pandemic given the availability of authentic data, saying the validity and robustness of the models used and the methodology of the data. collection are questionable.

In a report released on Thursday, the WHO estimated that nearly 15 million people have been killed either by the coronavirus or its impact on overwhelmed health systems over the past two years, more than double the official toll. 6 million dead. Most deaths have occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas.

According the report there have been 4.7 million Covid deaths in India – 10 times the official figures and almost a third of Covid deaths worldwide.

India is likely to raise the issue at the World Health Assembly and demanded multilateral forums, sources said.

India has consistently objected to the methodology adopted by the WHO to project excess mortality estimates based on mathematical models, the Union Health Ministry said in a statement.

“Despite India’s objection to the process, methodology and outcome of this modeling exercise, the WHO released the excess mortality estimates without adequately addressing India’s concerns,” the statement said. .

India had also advised WHO that given the availability of authentic data released through the Civil Registration System (CRS) by the Registrar General of India (RGI), mathematical models should not be used. to project excess mortality figures for India.

Birth and death registration in India is extremely robust and is governed by a decades-old legal legal framework, namely the “Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1969”. The vital statistics data as well as the sample registration data published annually by the RGI have been used by a large number of researchers, policy makers and scientists both nationally and internationally, the ministry said.

The RGI is a statutory organization over a century old and is assisted by the Chief Registrars of the States and Union Territories and approximately three lakh Registrars and Sub-Registrars across the country.

Based on reports submitted by States and UTs, national reports are published annually by the RGI. The national report for the year 2019 was published in June 2021 and for the year 2020 on May 3, 2022. These reports are in the public domain.

“India strongly believes that such robust and accurate data generated by a Member State’s legal framework should be respected, accepted and used by WHO rather than relying on less than accurate mathematical projections based on unofficial data sources,” the statement said.

India highlighted the inconsistencies in the criteria and assumptions used by the WHO to classify countries in Tiers I and II and questioned the very basis of India’s classification as Tier II countries, for which a mathematical modeling estimate is used.

India also highlighted the fact that given the accuracy of mortality data collected through an efficient and robust statutory system, India does not deserve to be placed in Tier II countries, according to the statement. .

“WHO so far has not responded to India’s claim. India has consistently questioned WHO’s own admission that data for seventeen Indian states was obtained from some websites and media reports and were used in their mathematical model. This reflects a statistically dubious and scientifically questionable data collection methodology to make projections of excess mortality in the case of India,” says the communicated.

Throughout the process of dialogue, engagement and communication with the WHO, she has projected different excess mortality figures for India citing several models, which itself raises questions about the validity and robustness of the models used.

India objected to the use of the 2019 Global Health Estimates (GHE) in any of the models used by the WHO to calculate excess mortality estimates for India. GHE itself is an estimate.

“Therefore, a modeling approach that provides mortality estimates based on another estimate, while completely ignoring the actual data available in the country, demonstrates a lack of academic rigor,” the statement said. .

The test positivity rate – another key variable used by the WHO – for COVID-19 in India has never been uniform across the country at any time.

Such a modeling approach does not take into account the variability of the Covid positivity rate both in terms of space and time within the country. The model also does not take into account the rate of testing and the impact of different diagnostic methods (RAT/RT-PCR) used in different geographies, the statement said.

Due to its vast area, diversity and a population of 1.3 billion which has experienced varying severity of the pandemic both in space and time, India has been consistently opposed to the use of a “one size fits all” approach and model, which may be applicable to small countries. but cannot be applicable to India, he said.

Despite these differences, India has continued to collaborate and coordinate with WHO on this exercise and multiple official communications – 10 times from November 2021 to May 2022 – as well as numerous virtual interactions have taken place with the body. global.

“Despite reporting these data to the WHO to support their publication, the WHO, for reasons best known to it, conveniently chose to ignore the available data submitted by India and published the estimates of excess mortality for which the methodology, data source and results have been constantly questioned by India,” the statement said.

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