As the country battles the COVID-19 virus, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh is reminding the public of another deadly virus making the rounds — H1N1.
Forty-one people in Trinidad and Tobago have died from H1N1 for this year’s flu season thus far, Deyalsingh revealed at yesterday’s daily virtual COVID-19 media briefing.
He said it is especially crucial to be vaccinated against this virus to avoid having to battle two viruses at once.
“Every flu season we beg people to come and get vaccinated, it could save your life. And now as we prepare for the next flu season, because this one is coming to an end, if people don’t get vaccinated against H1N1, you will now be battling two viruses at the same time — H1N1 which can kill you and COVID-19 which can kill you.
“But you can protect yourself against H1N1 with a vaccine, so instead of battling two viruses at the same time and literally ensuring you have a negative outcome, you can significantly improve your chances of surviving these two viruses by becoming vaccinated against one until a vaccine becomes available for the other,” he said.
Deyalsingh said the anti-vaxxer movement continues to be a challenge in convincing people to get vaccinated.
“What hampers us in T&T, and globally, is the anti-vaxxer movement. Those doctors, and we have them in T&T, who get air time to talk and discourage the population from going for the H1N1 vaccine, who tell the country that there is this global discussion about the dangers of H1N1 for pregnant people and children when there is none. Our biggest problem with H1N1 is not administering the vaccine, it is getting people to stop listening to the anti-vaxxers both in Trinidad and globally,” he said.
Also speaking at the media briefing, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said 40,000 vaccines are still available.
On the issue of private labs testing for COVID-19, Parasram said the certification process is on-going.
He said no labs that have applied for certification have been rejected and the Ministry of Health intends to make site visits to the labs this week.
No magic bullet
A team consisting of a medical lab technician and quality control specialists will visit the labs and will submit a report on what types of machines are being used, what types of tests are being done, staffing at the labs and other details.
The reports will then be looked over by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the decisions will be relayed to the labs individually, he said.
Community testing is also continuing, Parasram added, revealing that 182 people have been tested through this initiative thus far.
Deyalsingh also disclosed yesterday that T&T will receive a further 10,000 COVID-19 test kits from China.
China previously donated 4,000 test kits to T&T.
Deyalsingh said the new shipment is already “packed and ready to go” and awaiting clearance.
Currently, he said T&T has more than enough test kits and is in a good place.
On the issue of drug trials, Deyalsingh reiterated that there is no “magic bullet” or “miracle cure” for COVID-19.
He noted that there has been some trials of the antiviral drug Remdesivir, but said this has not been scientifically proven to be effective.
“Remdesivir is being looked at by a committee the Chief Medical Officer set up with The University of the West Indies and they will look at all the so-called magic bullets whether its hydroxychloroquine, which has failed spectacularly, or Interferon which came out a month ago. And we will not unleash onto the population any drug that hasn’t been proven to be either safe or effective,” Deyalsingh said.