CAROL MATROO and JULIEN NEAVES
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the drug Interferon Alfa-2b is already imported into TT, but for another use.
The minister was responding to a question put to him in the Senate on Tuesday by Opposition Senator Wade Mark on whether Government is considering the importation of the drug which is said to be successful in treating covid19.
"WHO has not made a formal declaration that this drug is effective. However, we were informally informed as such."
He reported the chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram, who is the chairman of the drug advisory committee, sent the drug to the principal pharmacist on Monday to convene a panel of specialists, including thoracic and infectious disease specialists, to look at the issue.
"If WHO and these specialists agree that this drug can be used the drug is already certified for use in TT, but for other uses, then we simply have to do a new indication use."
He explained for this to be done the CMO, as chairman of the drug advisory committee, advises him as the minister and within 24 hours, once it is cleared, it can be so used.
When contacted on Tuesday, PAHO/WHO country representative Dr Erica Wheeler said have read about the drug, but cannot confirm it.
"At this point in time, we don't have the proof. We don't have the link that it is something that is effective at this point in time. There are always lots of theories that the science has to be the thing that determines whether it is true or not, and we don't have the science for that as yet."
The United States has been working on a new vaccine and have started clinical trials.
Wheeler said the World Health Organisation (WHO) is now working with Centres for Disease Control (CDC).
"We received correspondence yesterday that WHO and CDC are now working hand in glove. They are pursuing a vaccine and there are clinical trials going on. They start with animals and will progress to humans, that is why it is going to take time, a year, outside a year and a half to develop a vaccine for this because it is something new, just late December, and we are not even at the end of March yet. It is just a matter of a few months, so there is no way you can have a vaccine ready yet because it's just too soon."
She said there are lots of tests to be done and it has to be proven to safe.
"You can say yes you are testing, but you don't know if it is safe. That is why you have to have clinical trials which are done under very specific conditions. It is not a major thing that can happen overnight."