In the United States, CDC guidelines for both indoor and outdoor masking have been lifted for fully vaccinated individuals. Hopeful eyes look to a care-free summer. However, if we broaden our gaze to the global landscape we see a different story. India in particular is feeling the devastation, as a population of 1.4 bilion is challenging to vaccinate. As of May 23, 2021, only 3% of the population has been vaccinated and India has seen over 26.5 million cases of Covid-19 and 300,000 deaths (source: New York Times). 

Here is a helpful visual of the situation.

India is in the grip of the highly transmissible B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus, first detected there and now appearing across the globe. While India is the world's largest vaccine producer, the huge demand has left it low on stocks and vaccinations have slowed down. 

The breathe99 team reached out to Dr. Karthik Ramasamy, Chief Surgeon at Chennai Plastic Surgery, to more clearly understand the situation on the ground in India. Here is what he had to say:

Wear the mask. Believe the science.

- Dr. Karthik Ramasamy, Chief Plastic Surgeon, India

1. What are your thoughts about the need for better masks today as well as the future?
Today, masks are uncomfortable to wear for a long period of time, especially in a hot country like India. Better masks need to be comfortable for long-term wearing, and should not cause any breathing difficulty. Otherwise, people won’t want to wear them. 

2. What is your top concern about covid-19 variants? 
The Covid-19 variants are highly infectious. That is my top concern, and we need to stop new infections from happening.

3. People in the US do not know much about the Indian variant, could you please talk a bit about that?  
The Indian Covid variant is highly infectious and professes faster inside a person than the original Covid. It produces symptoms in the GI tract like diarrhea. It is called “triple mutation” because there are three mutations, out of a whole cluster of them, that have been associated with this increased transmissibility and immune evasion.

4. Could you share your take on vaccine efficacy and what should people think about before getting vaccinated?
First and foremost, getting vaccinated prevents you from getting seriously ill from the disease. Although many people can still get a mild infection even after the second dose of vaccine, there is often no lung involvement to the infection. That is to say, they may have mild mucosal symptoms, but the vaccine protects you from something much more serious. 

5. What is one action that everyone should take for a healthier world?
Wear the mask. Believe the science.
One of breathe99’s own team members, Bhuvi, is from Chennai, India, and we are raising money to send B2 Masks to youth cancer survivors and essential workers there. If you have not read her message or supported our GoFundMe campaign, please consider checking it out.