Sunday 31 May, 2020

Jamaica to explore Cuba’s coronavirus medication option

Dr Christopher Tufton (file photo)

Dr Christopher Tufton (file photo)

Jamaica is looking to neighbours Cuba to help in the fight against the coronavirus on the island, as the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade are in discussions to explore the possible option of a drug that Cuba has.

Speaking at the coronavirus daily press briefing at Jamaica House on Tuesday, Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton expressed a desire to have the drug in use in Jamaica once the necessary guidelines are in place for its use.

According to Tufton, the good relations that both countries currently have should make it easier to access the drug, Interferon Alpha 2B, which is reportedly being used by a number of countries that are also afflicted with the coronavirus. These include China, from where the virus emerged.

“To the extent that there is a medical response, a pharmaceutical response to COVID-19, we would be very interested to learn more about that, so the conversation will continue in that regard,” said Tufton.

“Our medical team here, clearly we operate with a standard agency that has to vet medications and so on, and then register to make it available to the public if it is in the public’s health interest.

“I have had discussions with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to enquire, and to the extent that that drug represents the promise that has been placed in the public domain, we would certainly investigate and determine how best to use it,” Tufton added.

Meanwhile, he said the island currently possesses re-agents to do approximately 2,500 coronavirus tests. He said this is presently adequate, as new stocks came into the island on Monday and a new order has been made for more.

Tufton said while there has been some amount of clamouring for the tests to be more widespread, the availability of the re-agents and other materials makes this impossible. He also said that training of those who conduct the tests is done by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), a situation that has presented a level of difficulty.

“It’s not something you can just distribute. It has to be done under a controlled setting, and the fact that this is a new virus, it is something that we have to respect in terms of the protocols, because we are also gathering data information which ultimately will lead to a standard procedure,” he said

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