Covid Deaths: India objects to WHO methodology for calculating death toll

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Union Health Ministry has said that India has been in regular and in-depth technical exchange with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the issue of collecting and making public the COVID-19 death toll in the country.

The Union Health Ministry said in response to The New York Times article titled India Is Stalling the WHO’s Efforts to Make Global Covid Death Toll Public dated April 16.

The Ministry said that the analysis while using mortality figures directly obtained from Tier I set of countries, uses a mathematical modelling process for Tier II countries (which includes India).

“India’s basic objection has not been with the result (whatever they might have been) but rather the methodology adopted for the same,” it said.

The Ministry elaborated that India had shared its concerns with the methodology along with the other Member States through a series of formal communications, including six letters issued to the WHO (on November 17; December 20, 2021; December 28, 2021; January 11, 2022; February 12, 2022 and March 2, 2022) and virtual meetings held on December 16, 2021; December 28, 2021; January 6, 2022; February 25, 2022 and the SEARO Regional Webinar held on February 10, 2022.

During these exchanges, specific queries had been raised by India along with the other Member States, which included China, Iran, Bangladesh, Syria, Ethiopia and Egypt, regarding the methodology and use of unofficial sets of data.

“The concern specifically includes on how the statistical model projects estimates for a country of geographical size & population of India and also fits in with other countries which have smaller population. Such one-size-fits-all approach and models which are true for smaller countries like Tunisia may not be applicable to India with a population of 1.3 billion,” it said.

It said the model gave two highly different sets of excess mortality estimates when using the data from Tier I countries and when using unverified data from 18 Indian States.

“India has asserted that if the model accurate and reliable, it should be authenticated by running it for all Tier I countries and if result of such exercise may be shared with all Member States.”

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