In December of 2019, the first cases of what we now know to be SARS-CoV-2 were reported as fatal pneumonia in Wuhan, China. The first genetic sequence data of the virus was released by the Chinese Government and shared with the rest of the world by GISAID on 10th January 2020. By March 2020, global pharmaceutical companies announced a major commitment to addressing COVID-19, and on December 8th 2020, the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine went into the arm of a 90 year old woman in the UK. As of June 2021, more than 3 billion vaccine doses have been administered to people across the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented research worldwide, and has reaffirmed the importance of research, health infrastructure and robust public health systems in preparing for and responding to crisis. The ultimate mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic is dependent on an alignment of high-quality research and high-priority societal goals. At Shanti Ashram and ICPH, we have always worked at the intersection praxis of theory and practice. We believe that the best practice is informed by sound theory and that theory that does not translate into practise does not fulfil the mandate of our work. The COVID-19 Research and Response Desk was created during the pandemic as a wing of ICPH’s Public Health Desk. Our research team conducts situational analysis and needs assessment both for our own use and for the Government of Tamil Nadu. We also carry out research studies that have helped inform the interventions we have enacted on the field during the pandemic; the primary population we study are the vulnerable in our service villages, and particular focus is given to researching vulnerable children. The Research Desk also puts out articles on subjects ranging from the mental health impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable children to the contributing factors and social determinants of vaccine hesitancy.