In a 1.30-minute video, a man who identifies himself as Dr. Tarun Kothari is seen to downplay the impact of masks and vaccines in curbing the coronavirus. This video has now gone viral on social media platforms. He makes several claims including that the COVID-19 is a simple flu and that there is no need to wear masks, practice social distancing, or even get vaccinated. Let us now verify the claims made in the post.
Claim 1: Wearing masks would deplete the oxygen levels leading to several diseases which require hospitalization.
Fact: All the health authorities across the globe recommend wearing of masks as a comprehensive strategy to combat COVID-19. Hence, the claim made in the post is FALSE.
In the video, Dr. Tarun Kothari urges people to not wear masks because it will cause several diseases due to low oxygen levels. These in turn will require hospitalization & prove to be fatal which will then be considered as COVID-19 death. However, this is false. In fact, all the national & international health authorities across the globe recommend wearing masks to control the spread of COVID-19. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also confirms that data further demonstrates the efficacy of wearing masks in reducing new infections and reduce community exposure to COVID-19. However, the CDC guidance also lists the activities where wearing a mask may not be possible such as dining, water activities, workout/high-intensity activities, children under 2 years, outdoor workers, specially-abled people, among others. This in no way implies that wearing a mask leads to other respiratory illnesses or the lack of it is safe for COVID-19.
Claim 2: Vaccine kills more people than COVID-19.
Fact: Only one death was reported by national AEFI committee as opposed to over 4.2 lakh reported deaths due to COVID-19. Therefore, the claim made in the video is FALSE.
India has witnessed over 4.19 lakh deaths owing to COVID-19 of which 41% of total deaths occurred in April-May 2021 during the deadly second wave. On the contrary, according to a report submitted by the National Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI), a 68-year-old man died of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) post-vaccination on 8 March 2021. The death is reported as “vaccine product related reaction”. As of 19 July 2021, causality assessment for 179 serious and severe AEFI cases has been approved by the National AEFI Committee of which only one death case was found to be associated with COVID-19 vaccine. According to the health ministry, as of 26 July 2021, 34.18 crore persons have been administered at least one dose of the vaccine. On the other hand, according to CDC, out of the 339 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in the United States, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) received 6,207 reports of death (0.0018%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. They also clarified that, “Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.”
Claim 3: COVID-19 is a simple flu with minimal deaths.
Fact: There are significant differences between COVID-19 and the common flu including higher reproductive and mortality rates for COVID-19. Therefore, the claim is FALSE.
While both influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are contagious respiratory illnesses, the differences are quite stark. Flu is caused by influenza viruses while COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus which is much more virulent & dangerous than the normal flu. There are a number of differences between flu and COVID-19 but the main difference is that the speed of transmission of COVID-19 i.e., spreads much faster and is more reproductive i.e., transmits to other people when compared to the flu. Mortality for COVID-19 appears higher than for influenza, especially seasonal influenza. In fact, the mortality rate from COVID-19 is yet to be determined accurately, the crude mortality rate is between 3-4 percent which is much higher than that of the flu which is usually below 0.1 percent. Also, as mentioned above, India has crossed over 4 lakh deaths due to COVID-19. Other differences include COVID-19 takes longer incubation & recovery periods, complications exacerbated by comorbidities, and external medical treatment including hospitalization. Therefore, it is much more dangerous and life-threatening when compared to the common flu.
In fact, Navbharat Times has reported that Delhi Police has registered an FIR against Dr. Tarun Kothari for his controversial anti-masking and anti-vaccine comments and spreading misinformation that COVID-19 is a fake epidemic. Further research revealed that his two Facebook accounts have been blocked for spreading COVID-19 related misinformation, as per his latest tweet. Dr. Kothari has a history of spreading misinformation and is the author of ‘Corona Pandemic Scam’. Despite removing his multiple accounts on social media, the misinformation continues to spread.
In summary, people must be careful to not fall for such misinformation and only trust COVID-19 related information from reliable sources such as health authorities.