A user-friendly, web based model simulator helped India to predict the third wave: ICMR

  • Last year soon after the second covid-19 wave, ICMR in collaboration with the union health ministry and Imperial College in London developed a model called ‘CHROMIC’ for policymakers to interact directly with a model

A report published in British Medical Journal highlights India’s covid-19 response with the use of user-friendly, web-based modelling simulator that helped the government officials and scientists to predict the threat of third wave and public health response. Based on experience, India’s top medical research body recommends the use of such initiatives in pandemic preparedness in the Global South.
Last year soon after the second covid-19 wave, the Indian Council of Medical Science (ICMR) in collaboration with the union health ministry and Imperial College in London developed a model called ‘CHROMIC (Collaborative Health Research on Modelling-Indian Council of Medical Research) for policymakers to interact directly with a model. The stimulator benefited them from locally available data, as well as a close understanding of the needs of the healthcare system.
“In June 2021, immediately following the decline of the second wave, the CHROMIC model was used to examine whether a third wave in India could be as severe as the second wave. The results highlighted that such an outcome would occur if- a new variant emerges that shows full immune escape from previously circulating variants, and lockdowns in specific local areas showing high levels of transmission were suddenly relaxed. The subsequent emergence of the omicron wave validated the findings of this study,” Prof. (Dr) Samiran Panda, Additional Director General, ICMR.
Mathematical modelling has been a helpful resource for planning public health responses to COVID-19. Therefore, this particular model or stimulator created by ICMR is so user-friendly which can be operated over smartphones mobile phones and other smart devices by health administrators and surveillance officers at the local level.
“The aim of the simulator was to make projections for the hospital capacity that would be required in the event of a third wave. Given the uncertainty at the time on how a third wave might emerge, the simulator allowed users to specify different scenarios for mechanisms, including–the waning of immunity to previously circulating strains, the transmissibility of any future variant, the degree of immune escape of any such variant and the release of local lockdowns and other restrictions in spite of emerging infections,” Dr Panda said.
“The simulator also allowed users to specify scenarios for ramping up vaccination coverage, strengthening of health infrastructure to simulate ways of mitigating the impact of a potential future wave. Importantly, the simulator-generated outputs for resource requirements drew heavily from the countrywide COVID-19 Registry and were therefore grounded in country-context and reality,” he said.
However, ICMR says that such preparedness should be conducted during ‘peace time’, and coordinated by agencies such as WHO. It also states that systematic mechanisms are required for monitoring the use of models in decision making, which will help in providing modelling support to those local authorities who may benefit most from it.
The ICMR also recommends the need of flexible modelling frameworks to respond rapidly to future emergencies as the precise nature of any pandemic is impossible to predict. Furthermore, modelling resources will need to be rapidly adaptable to respond as soon as a novel pathogen emerges and limitations of modelling must be communicated clearly and consistently to end users. Modelling resources will, therefore, need to be rapidly adaptable to respond as soon as a novel pathogen emerges.
As per ICMR, if the need to protect scarce healthcare resources is one of the critical objectives of modelling, this need is felt even more urgently in the Global South than elsewhere.
“We hope that lessons learnt from this initiative could help to bolster pandemic preparedness in other countries in South and South-East Asia,” said ICRM scientist.
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