PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Trinidad and Tobago health officials Wednesday expressed concern at the increasing numbers of pediatric cases stemming from the coronavirus and appealed once more for people to stop using Ivermectin, a broad spectrum anti-parasitic agent.
The drug is included in World health Organization (WHO) essential medicines list for several parasitic diseases. It is used in the treatment of onchocerciasis (river blindness), strongyloidiasis and other diseases caused by soil transmitted helminthiasis. It is also used to treat scabies.
Health Minister, Terrence Deyalsingh, speaking at the Ministry of Health news conference, said despite warnings, many COVID-19 patients in home isolation are continuing to rely heavily on the drug, spending huge sums of money and are not getting the desired outcome in staving off the virus.
“The frontline doctors at the A&Es (Accident and Emergency), when they examine the notes that are based on interviews with relatives and patients, we continue to see… and the doctors have asked me to raise this this morning because they are concerned, appalled and disheartened by the continued reliance by persons on Ivermectin.
“You have persons who could afford it, this is the information coming to me this morning, who are paying up to TT$30,000 (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) to be treated at home with Ivermectin and home oxygen.
“What the doctors have asked me to say this morning is that this is untenable. If you are on oxygen at home, they ask you to come into a facility to get oxygen. And there’s no need to spend TT$30,000 on Ivermectin at home,” Deyalsingh told reporters.
Last year, the WHO said the evidence on the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients is inconclusive and that until more data is available, it is recommending that the drug only be used within clinical trials.
Deyalsingh told reporters that health authorities were also concerned at the use of what he termed COVID packs, a combination of Ivermectin, Vitamin B and Vitamin C.
“That is not going to assist you. And it is their view (doctors) that the continued reliance and confidence being placed on Ivermectin is contributing in some way or fashion to the number of deaths that we experience.
“So again, and the CMO (Chief Medical Officer) is going to write once again to the Medical Association and the Pharmacy Board about the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID -19 patients at home, which is not WHO approved and for which there have been no clinical trials showing its efficacy. And people are dying at home after paying these huge amounts of money for something that is no better than snake oil,” he added.
The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Roshan Parasram also reported on Wednesday that they are also concerned at the increased number of pediatric cases being recorded with eight pediatric COVID-19 cases in hospitals.
Dr. Parasram said one of the cases is in the intensive care unit (ICU) and the other seven were below the age of 12 and are eligible for vaccination in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We note it as a concern on the back of the Omicron (variant), and looking at the rest of the world, pediatric cases are filling up in the US and other places,” he said.
Deyalsingh said while people have been calling for the Pfizer vaccine to be given to children between five and 11 years old, as the vaccine has been approved for use in minors in the US, it cannot be done in TT at this time.
“There are two vaccines before WHO for EUL (Emergency Use Listing) or EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) for five-11: both Sinopharm and Pfizer. A lot of people are asking why we don’t give five-11 children the vaccine. We can’t. It is not legally permissible. It is not clinically permissible.”
He said the dosage for the five-11 age group is different from the strength currently being administered to adults and that the buffer, which keeps the vaccine at a similar pH to the body, in the adult dosage that is used to ensure the stability of the vaccine is different from the buffer in the pediatric dosage.
“We cannot use what we have. We have to wait for EUL or EUA approval for the pediatric version. As soon as it is approved, and supplies are available we will bring it in for that cohort.”
The CMO said that with the increase in Omicron cases, it will become the dominant variant in this country within the next week or two.
He told reporters that 25 percent of the variants of concern being recorded are Omicron and 75 percent are Delta.
Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said with the additional movement during the Christmas season and the introduction of the Omicron variant, the COVID-19 numbers are likely to rise.
Latest figures released here show Trinidad and Tobago has recorded 2, 951 deaths and 93, 634 positive infection cases since March 2020.