121 e-Letters

  • Biased analysis, a dangerous precedent

    Dear Editor

    The article by Gesesew et al (1) presents a highly biased analysis of the impact of war on health systems in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The analysis rests on a premise that the region of Tigray was “invaded” and provides selective references of “deliberate attacks by allied forces”. We respectfully point out that the characterization of an invasion is not only fundamentally inapplicable to a federal army in a region of its own country but is also wrong on the simple basis of chronology. It is crucial to acknowledge that war started because of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) concerted simultaneous attacks of several Ethiopian Federal Army bases stationed in Tigray on Nov 4, 2020, killing thousands of troops.

    In describing the human toll of the war, the analysis does not distinguish between civilian and military casualties, nor consider the impacts of TPLF guerilla tactics on the civilian population. Egregiously, it does not mention the well-documented massacre of hundreds of Amhara civilians in Mai- Kadra, Tigray (by forces allied with the TPLF) on Nov 9-10, 2020 (2). The analysis mentions “hunger and rape as weapons of war” and “independently confirmed ethnic cleansing” but fails to acknowledge a fundamental contradiction with the outcomes of independent investigations from the United Nation’s Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN-OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). These entities used internationa...

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  • Implementation and engineering science and the costs of revising and rolling out hand hygiene programmes

    Dear Editor
    Ross and co-authors have developed a usable model to estimate the costs of hand hygiene in household settings for the 46 least developed countries. (1)

    The authors conclude that costs could be covered by using resources from across government and partners, and could be reduced by “integrating hand hygiene with other behavioural change campaigns where appropriate.” (1) Models such as these are based on the assumption that gathering up all the relevant costs has been done – yet the authors note that “follow-up formative research to revise promotion interventions based on implementation experience was not included.” Their justification was that the cost of these revisions would be likely to be small.

    However, implementation and engineering science suggest that the costs of such revisions could be major. If there were problems with the original plan for promotion interventions, then multiple steps would be needed to enable their revision. These would include but would not be limited to understanding the problems, identifying what factors were causing the problems, planning a strategy for change and then tactics on how such change could be delivered, testing the change, and then rolling it out.

    When all these are taken into account, the cost of the revision process could be considerable and to this must be added the cost of the new implementation strategy that would then need to be rolled out.

    Thus, a new implementation strategy...

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  • Will vaccine passports ease international travels?

    Vaccines are our only promising key to minimizing the spread of the virus and returning to a normal life. Lockdowns and quarantines have a negative impact on people’s mental health and social lives. Vaccine passports can allow us to participate in certain activities such as traveling without having to go through extreme channels such as quarantining for weeks when you travel into or outside of a country. This can helps us transition back to life before COVID-19 while minimizing the fears of spreading the virus globally.

  • Re: Through a quantitative study design, could this lead to more answers from scientists?

    A very informative and well-round study that gives a somewhat comprehensive explantation (as a pioneer study) on how scientists from different fields interact with policymakers during the COVID19-pandemic. It gives a good explanation of how difficult the “sandwich position” seems to be when you have to work in a field requiring interdisciplinary competencies.
    Some critique points might include the fact that one of the interviewed scientists mentioned, that wearing a mask was not effective (P4, the Netherlands on page 5). Given the view from a very European perspective, a view over to the Asian neighbours would have or could have clarified this point. (1)
    The European point is another thing that needs to be taken into consideration. Although the authors mentioned that the result might not apply to other parts of the world, it is crucial to mention that this issue needs to be addressed if we talk about a better interdisciplinary workforce globally during a pandemic.
    Moreover, could a quantitative approach would have led to different results? Maybe the purview or range among scientists would have been more applicable with a fitting survey so that more scientists in related fields and positions could have been reached.
    Fears and reservations about anonymity could be eradicated by this study design over a potentially large(r) study population.
    However, I would like to thank you for this paper and hope that broader research on the field could bring...

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  • Lockdowns and Climate Change: A Spur to Action

    In the BMJ Global Health article, “Is the cure really worse than the disease? The health impacts of lockdowns during COVID-19“, Meyerowitz-Katz et al. (1) seek to assess the impact of lockdowns on population health. However, any comprehensive evaluation of the impacts of lockdown may benefit from including the broader effects that such restrictions may have on health due to environmental changes - particularly in regard to air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the flow-on effects these have on human health due to climate change.

    As described by the authors, lockdowns are associated with broad detriments to human health and are generally undesirable. However, there is now considerable evidence that lockdowns result in noticeable decreases in air pollution. The 6th IPCC Assessment Report deems with high confidence that air quality improved as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns (2). When global lockdowns reached their most widespread point in April 2020, global CO2 emissions decreased by 17% (3), while global NOx emissions decreased by 30% (4), representing reductions in both long-lived and short-lived climate forcers.

    Unfortunately, though these variations are measurable, the effect of such fluctuations on climate change are likely to be negligible (4) and transitory in nature (5, 6). Despite the popular perception that “nature is healing” as a result of lockdowns, the effects are unlikely to mitigate climate change on their own.

    Yet even so...

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  • Commentary on “The Merit Privilege” by Dr. Prashanth N Srinivas

    Since long, the debate on meritocracy has been in the academic circle which originated from academicians, researchers, professionals and students belonging to ‘lower and/or backward’ castes. However, not much attention was paid to such discussions by the privileged and elite majorly because of their vested interests associated with it or due to the fact that we considered this caste as an uneducated, uncivilized and voiceless community unless they are educated and speak for themselves their voice become a part of the politicization of caste system.

    This uncomfortable point is time and again raised by many on several instances like suicide of Rohith Vemula (Leonard, 2019: 52), hurling abuses by Prof Seema Singh to the marginalized caste students in IIT Kg (Datta, 2021), etc. however, meritocracy becomes a topic of intense discussion when a globally recognized political philosopher Michael Sandel put them into words and problematizing the way the elites think.

    Once again, the lateral entry in UPSC was criticised at various fronts ranging from students’ protests to policy researchers. The connection of meritocracy with public policy and public health is due to technocracies and the policy decisions which were not so fruitful in the recent past. However, this was the same danger which dissenters were warning the world. That reminds us of Avengers Endgame when Tony Stark said to Steve Rogers that we are Avengers and not “pre-vengers”.

    Similarly, scien...

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  • what about animal reservoir of covid-19

    Dear Authors, very interesting and convincing study. It is known that smallpox and polio have no human reservoirs (only infecting Humans) making the vaccine strategy very efficient. However, what about the animal reservoirs of covid-19 ? If such animal reservoirs of covid-19 exists it (highly likely, and proposed as the initial step of the pandemy: infection of an human from an animal carrying covid-19 in Wuhan...) will make the eradication of the virus impossible, except if you vaccinate those animals also or kill them simply...Did you take into account animal reservoirs in your study (the big difference with smallpox and polio used as exemple). Regards. M Maresca

  • What is being disinfected?

    The authors report a reduction in transmission in households regularly disinfecting with chlorine or ethanol based agents, but what is being disinfected is quite vague. Does this include household that, for example, only use bleach in the bathroom? Was this limited to household disinfecting ALL non-porous contacted surfaces? Did this include the use of bleach on laundry? If the authors could clarify what cleaning practices this actually encompasses, that would be appreciated.

  • Age difference and changing marriage age can add to male surplus

    An additional factor of importance in the perception of a gender imbalance is the consequence of an age difference between partners (e.g. groom and bride) and the growth rate of the respective society. If, for example, there was a constant age difference of 5 years between (older) men and (younger) woman, and around 2% of annual population growth, leading to an increase of 10% in the number of births over each 5 years, that in its effect would just counterbalance a 10:9 sex imbalance (around 47.5% women to 52.5% men). In a shrinking society with a similar preference for younger women, the two effects would add and the imbalance in birth rates would feel even worse for men.

    The imbalance would ultimately affect the “market power” of the respective genders in partnerships and/or the “marriage market”. If women actually prefer a partner of similar age, and woman of one cohort can start to pursue that preference due to the “oversupply” of men, this would further enhance the marriage squeeze for men, as even more of the older bachelors would be left out while the women turn to the younger competitors of the older men. Certainly, in the advent of such transition, some men will overlook that effect and thus be left out unmarried once the patterns have changed.

    A gradual increase of the age of marriage may also trigger or enhance that effect: Young women (or their parents, to the extent they are participating in the choice of their daughters partner or life partner)...

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  • “Antibiotic” does the term lead to confusion?

    McKinn et all state in their work published in the BMJ state that drivers of antibiotic misuse in Vietnam are socio-economic than biomedical in nature (1). However, does linguistics play a role as well?

    What is an antibiotic? The generally accepted definition is that an antibiotic is a drug that is used for the treatment of bacterial infections (less commonly to prevent), these agents can either kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria.

    However, the term antibiotic, as opposed to an antibacterial, may denote a drug with a wider activity, an agent that is active against any “biotic”. Reading on the origin of this term, it appears that this was the original meaning of this term (2).

    In a couple of recent surveys that we conducted, we identified that many people have this misconception. This was more obvious in open ended questions. In an online survey conducted in Sri Lanka, 190 (93.1%) participants out of 204 stated they knew what an antibiotic is and defined it in their own terms. However, 51 (26.8%) of this190 defined antibiotics as agents that can kill any micro-organism (3).

    In the same group of people, 12 mentioned substances other than antibiotics as examples of antibiotics, including antiseptics with antibacterial properties such as povidone iodine and triclosan, a vaccine (anti-rabies vaccine), paracetamol, chlorpheniramine and cetirizine, domperidone, aspirin, insulin, saline, and plants (cannabis and “weniwelgeta”).

    In both the...

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