JIS News

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has commenced receiving supplies of the new revolutionary Rapid Antigen Test for detecting coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, which was recently unveiled by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This was announced by PAHO Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, who advised that the regional entity has received “hundreds of thousands” of the tests, which were acquired utilising the organisation’s Strategic Supply Fund.

Dr. Etienne indicated that these supplies are being stored at PAHO’s regional warehouse in Panama for distribution to member countries, adding that “millions more are expected in the coming weeks”.

“So, we have built up a stockpile and we are able, also, to access those tests for our member states,” the Director added.

She was speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday (October 14).

Dr. Etienne said the Rapid Antigen Test could prove to be a game changer in PAHO member countries’ responses to containing the spread of COVID-19, based on its ability to detect cases within minutes.

She noted that by providing results quickly, the test will empower front-line health workers to better manage cases by isolating patients to prevent further spread, and begin treatment immediately.

“These new diagnostics will allow us to test more people faster and more accurately than ever before. If distributed widely, these new tests will transform our COVID-19 response. Thanks to the tireless work of the WHO Act Accelerator, we now have an affordable and reliable rapid diagnostic test that can be performed anywhere,” the PAHO Director pointed out.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is a groundbreaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

Dr. Etienne advised that PAHO has commenced rolling out the tests in Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, and Suriname, where pilot studies are being conducted.

She said these countries are being helped to implement new testing protocols “so that health workers [will] know how to use the new diagnostic, and record their results”.

“The data collected via the study will help countries within and outside of our region make the most of these new diagnostics,” the Director said.

In this regard, Dr. Etienne encouraged member states to “partner with PAHO to bring these new tests to the hospitals and health clinics on the front lines of our fight against the virus”.

PAHO’s Incident Manager, Dr. Sylvain Aldigheri, advised that the WHO has, to date, validated two tests that have been developed for distribution.

These, he informed, were undertaken by a manufacturer based in Asia, and another with operations in Europe and the United States.

The region of the Americas had, up to Tuesday (October 13), recorded more than 18 million COVID-19 cases and more than 519,000 deaths.

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