Granular data: Its significance in developing strategies to contain COVID-19

AS COVID-19 continues to ravage the country with no signs of abating, many state governments and medical-related non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have urged the Health Ministry (MOH) to share granular data.

They argue that such data would help state governments and local health officials to carve out custom made programmes to deal with the pandemic, based on local needs.

“Granular data essentially means data is broken down into smaller parts in order for us to find out better ways to manage COVID-19.

“For example, when a person is tested positive for COVID-19, what do we do with the person and his family? Do we isolate him alone or quarantine the family members separately as well?

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj

“This is where granular data will come in handy for health officials to make informed decisions,” Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) chairperson Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj told FocusM.

Sharing his take on the matter, the retired pulmonologist said for now, people know that infected individuals would have spread the virus across their contacts before symptoms flare up.

“Let’s say in Selangor, one person is infected and we quarantine him. We need to also know how many people are there in his household and whether they got infected too.

“And for the one in Perak, should I quarantine the entire household together or separate them? But 48 hours have lapsed since the person was tested positive, is it worth isolating the whole family now?

“This is where granular data is important for us to make informed decisions, based on specific cases. Bear in mind that the original COVID-19 strain spreads differently from the Delta variant,” he opined.

Granular data would help official to make decisions based on empirical evidence, adding not every case needs to be dealt with in the same manner, given the seriousness and various type of COVID-10 variants spreading around.

On that note, Jeyakumar said that granular data also would help prepare health officials to target specific treatments on the infected, depending on the severity.

“First of all, we shouldn’t wait for someone to be having breathing difficulties before starting the person with steroid medication. We can use blood test (using bio-chemical means) to determine the severity sooner.

“But are the hospitals doing that and what is the outcome? We need the data on that too. Of course, my suggestion requires more intervention but it will help fine tune standard operating procedure (SOP) in treating patients,” he mentioned.

Photo credit: WebMD


On related matter, Jeyakumar urged the MOH to prepare for the spread of the Delta variant in Malaysia and the other deadlier variant detected in 30 countries; Lambda, which has yet to be detected in the country.

For starters, he urged the authorities to ramp up screening across Malaysia by including sampling of the virus genome, which will help detect specific variant during testing itself.

“Right now, we only have the PCR and RTK-Antigen test kits, which do not detect the variant,” the PSM leader stated.

For the vaccines, Jeyakumar also called upon the Government to compare notes with health officials from other countries, particularly on the efficacy of the vaccines against the new variants.

“For example, we may need to check Pfizer’s efficacy against Lambda. So, we should get data from countries having the variant and the particular vaccine’s efficacy against it.

“If it doesn’t work, then we have to look into offering booster shots to the people or even develop a new vaccine to deal with it.

“But for all this, we need to use correct data and empirical evidence to go about it,” the former Sungai Siput MP remarked. – July 25, 2021.


Photo credit: Healthcare IT News

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