HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville.
Photo: Donavan McIntosh/Tribune staff
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH and Wellness Minister Dr Michael Darville says his ministry is investigating after being cautioned by an international health agency about several potential “substandard” COVID-19 antigen testing kits imported to the country from India.
Speaking before yesterday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Dr Darville told reporters that health officials were alerted to the situation by representatives from the Pan American Health Organization.
This comes after a Jamaican media outlet reported the World Health Organization had flagged Jamaica last month as being one of two countries in the Caribbean that had imported COVID-19 test kits which were “substandard,” the other being The Bahamas.
“The WHO surveillance system for substandard and falsified products, on October 13, 2021, forwarded an email regarding the potential presence of unregulated Standard Q COVID-19 Ag in the Caribbean, manufactured in India and being sold at a price much lower than the average for this type of product, and was acted upon,” Cynthia Lewis-Graham, director of Jamaica’s Ministry of Health’s Standards and Regulation Division, told the Jamaica Observer.
“Jamaica was named as one of the two countries in which the product was being used, the other being The Bahamas. The possibility of the product being in other Caribbean countries was highlighted.”
According to the report, Ms Lewis-Graham also noted that PAHO had requested “that the kits be detected, samples obtained, and the matter reported.”
When asked about the report yesterday, Dr Darville told reporters officials were aware of it and subsequently conducting their own investigations.
“We are fully aware and it was brought to our attention via PAHO. I think this report is also in the Gleaner, a Jamaican news (outlet), and I spoke to it yesterday (Monday) and to assure the Bahamian people that those tests that were defective, I think they’re from India, they were not the Abbott tests.
“I can’t remember the name of the tests but they are one of the tests that were approved by our national lab and we’re aware of it. We have notified all of the various labs and to our understanding, some of those particular tests were located but we’re still investigating to ensure that they’re not a part of creating an effect on our database to know where we are with COVID so we’re aware of these tests in the country and some were donated to Jamaica as well.”
RT-PCR tests are currently considered the golden standard to determine COVID-19 infection in The Bahamas, however antigen tests, which are cheaper, are also used.