The journey for the last almost 11 months has been almost a decade. It's been tough on the entire society and more so for the medical professionals and frontline doctors. There's a huge psychological risk, which has been taken on a daily basis. Seeing the suffering of patients and very often feeling helpless because there was no information available in the international domain in the first few months.
So I think the first four or five months of last year were extremely tough. We didn't know the exact genomic sequence, we were struggling.
It was extremely important and if not for the lockdown, we would have lost more than a million more lives in India. And I think India was one of the few countries that imposed such a stringent and effective lockdown. Initially we were struggling with PPE kits, mask unreliability, the testing policy was not clear, the testing kits were not available in India. So I think we were really unaware for an exam for which the syllabus was not known. The language was not known. And, despite all those hindrances and drawbacks, we did pretty well.
The psychological impact of lockdown is something which is going to have a lasting impact on our society. So I think, the mental state of the entire society will have to be looked at very carefully.
Everyone was talking about antibodies, what is the concept of immunity, among other things. And then there were a lot of fake news and misinformation in the media.
With the advent of the vaccines, we have two indigenous ones, both vector-based. Vaccines are extremely important because I think this is the only powerful influential tool human beings have in public health strategy to end these kinds of infectious epidemics and pandemics. 2021 will still be a year of masks, grouping together, putting strings together, to get our lives back in order. It would still be a year of social distancing and hand washing. We would probably need about 40% to 50% of the immunity assets at large to be vaccinated at the present moment.
This pandemic has brought to light the chronic underfunding of public health care. And I think we need to invest in public health. We need a very concentrated campaign on population control, which was the effect of such large unmonitored population growth. India has done well in spite of all the limitations. India has a population of 138 crore versus, let's say, USA's population of 33 to 34 crore. We comprise 21% of the total global population, US comprises 4% of global population. We have far less fatalities as compared to the US in spite of them having five times the medical facilities.
For every success story, there are many people who try to pull you down. The Prime Minister was very open from the day the pandemic hit India. The clapping episodes, the banging of utensils, lighting of diyas and candles were all done to convey to the population that they are in this together and the government is with them too. I have said this time and again -- this was not a 100m sprint. This was a very long marathon. And these events are not only a symbolic gesture, these are done to provide the required momentum and psychologically strengthening of the society at large.
The periodic addresses by the Prime Minister, health minister and other top officials were something to look forward to. I think there has been a good amount of regular and transparent communication. It's congratulations to the Prime Minister because he led from the front.
I was very touched by his speech on the launch of vaccines, lasting about maybe 20 minutes. I would say in my language -- 10 months in 10 minutes. He summarized each part and each phrase and wove it together in a beautiful fabric. He understood people's pain, the anxiety everyone has gone through. He choked up not once but multiple times to say he understands the pain.
We understand where he's coming from. We know his intentions. I think he's a man who can connect. He's a man who is a leader. He's a statesman. And he's a man who can show emotions because he's just a man at the end of the day. His talk has gone down very well as far as that most parts of our community is concerned.
(As told to News18.com's Rounak Gunjan)
(The writer is a Padma Shree awardee and chairman of Nephron Clinics.)