Fri | Mar 5, 2021

Letter of the Day | Rapid COVID-19 antigen kits need to be readily available

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2021 | 12:13 AM


The recent pandemic COVID-19 has brought about a common enemy that none of us was prepared for.

I remember when the news broke about a lady visiting from the UK who had attended a funeral and later tested positive.

My small, private office was immediately filled with panic, many wondering how this one case would affect the entire nation.

I had to go to the front of the office and help to calm everyone, while inside I was truly worried. Later that day, I sat quietly at my desk and prayed the same prayer of Jesus on the cross, “Lord let this cup pass from us.”

Our brave, little country seemed to be fighting battles on all sides; loss of revenue from tourism, our countrymen stranded on ships sailing the ocean looking for safe harbours, cases of dengue, our children out of school, companies closing and people out of work, and the never-ending evil of crime.

In my heart, I knew that we were literally at war, and I had to do my part. My office remained opened as other patients with acute and chronic illness needed care, and there was always the concern that the condition of these patients would deteriorate.

However, something changed. More and more persons started to come in with symptoms of COVID-19, and the appointments for getting dates took longer, delaying a concrete diagnosis.

We were almost operating in the blind until the PCR test result came back, as COVID-19 mimics other viral illnesses like dengue, which is one of the differential diagnosis of COVID-19.

As we entered into the community-spread phase of the disease, more patients required PCR testing, and a greater burden was placed on the government testing sites, and appointment dates and receipt of results took longer.

With the advent of rapid COVID-19 test kits, very similar to a rapid HIV, pregnancy or dengue test done at the point of care, the result is available in 10 to 15 minutes, a presumptive diagnosis is made, and early intervention and tracing of contacts can be initiated until a confirmatory PCR is done.

There is much debate about what test kits should be approved and who should use them. I do not see the reason for any confusion. Any test kit that is approved by the Ministry of Health and Wellness should be made available to all medical personnel working in public and private facilities

As we know, early diagnosis and intervention of any illness, including COVID-19, usually result in favourable outcomes.

In a war, ammunition is not just given to the generals, but to the captains, foot soldiers, and even to the medics.

Private and public medical facilities with doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel report to work every day to fight the COVID-19 battle, at significant risk to personal safety and their families’ health.

Even in our country, Jamaica, many have lost their lives fighting against this dreaded disease.

The ammunition of Rapid COVID-19 antigen kits need to be readily available and broadly disseminated across the island; even to the most remote rural clinics, and also accessible to private medical doctors.