Dept of Health also ignored enquiries about ventilator purchase plans
Today, Boris Johnson told the nation that the government is doing everything it can to fight the coronavirus pandemic and to prepare the NHS to save as many lives as possible.
So why won’t the Department of Health answer basic questions about two key steps the UK’s people have a right to expect it to have been taking since well before the virus took hold in this country?
China’s success in reducing mortality
Interferon Alfa 2b is an antiviral medication that was used by China in its successful fight against the virus. It does not prevent infection or cure the disease, but it attacks the multiplication of the virus within cells and combats the complications that can cause viral sufferers to become critically ill and die – reducing both death rates and the burden on intensive care units.
A Yale University Press article notes that the drug, produced by Cuba, is known to be effective against viruses with a similar structure to the COVID-19 virus – and was part of China’s fight against it:
Noting how the drug works – and how broadly it has been shown to work – author Helen Yaffe writes:
Cuban biotech specialist Dr. Luis Herrera Martinez explained, “its use prevents aggravation and complications in patients, reaching that stage that ultimately can result in death.” Cuba first developed and used interferons to arrest a deadly outbreak of the dengue virus in 1981, and the experience catalyzed the development of the island’s now world-leading biotech industry…
Since its first application to combat dengue fever, Cuba’s interferon has shown its efficacy and safety in the therapy of viral diseases including Hepatitis B and C, shingles, HIV-AIDS, and dengue. Because it interferes with viral multiplication within cells, it has also been used in the treatment of different types of carcinomas. Time will tell if Interferon Alfa 2b proves to be the wonder drug as far as COVID-19 goes.
The Chinese battle against the complications of the virus has been successful: outside of Wuhan city itself and the early days of the epidemic, China’s mortality rate from COVID-19 has been 0.4-0.7% – a fraction of what European countries are experiencing.
The reasons for success
According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Dr Bruce Aylward, this success has been at least partly because after the initial shock of the Wuhan outbreak, China has improved and refined its treatment protocols.
At a press conference after a fact-finding mission, Aylward said that the more patients medical staff saw, the more they could start identifying what kind of supportive care made a difference. So by the time patients started showing up in hospitals in other provinces, doctors and nurses there had a lot more information about what it takes to keep patients alive.
Interferon Alfa 2b was part of that protocol – part of ‘what it takes to keep patients alive’.
And Interferon Alfa 2b is licensed for use in the UK.
It would therefore be reasonable to expect that – with such information being readily available from the WHO and the press of eminent universities, the UK’s Department of Health and the NHS would have immediately begun including the drug in treatment – and building stockpiles of Interferon Alfa 2b in readiness for the huge number of critical patients the government knows are going to be at risk of death.
But it seems not.
A series of ignored enquiries
Last week, the SKWAWKBOX called the Department of Health to ask whether it was using Interferon Alfa 2b to treat UK coronavirus sufferers – if it wasn’t whether it would start, as well as what steps if any the government had taken to ramp up stocks. The enquiry was also sent by email to the Department as requested.
An answer was promised by the following day. None came.
When no response was received, further calls were made – and further emails sent.
Four days on from the original enquiry, there has not only been no meaningful response – there has been absolute silence from the Department of Health.
At the same time the SKWAWKBOX also asked the Department of Health to confirm how many orders it had placed for new ventilators, after Channel 4’s Cathy Newman had asked Matt Hancock via Twitter and received no response.
Again, a response was promised by the next day. Again, none was received – in spite of further calls and emails.
The editor of leading medical publication The Lancet has pointed out that the Tories have wasted almost two months as the disease threatened the UK and began to take hold here:
Boris Johnson now claims the government is doing everything it can to reduce the number of UK deaths from the new virus – and to ease the burden on the NHS. He claims that he is following the best scientific advice.
But it seems, from the silence of his health department, that he is ignoring at least one drug that was part of China’s success against the disease. We already know Johnson is ignoring a large part the WHO’s prescribed steps for fighting the pandemic.
On top of that and in spite of Hancock’s implausible claims about adapting factories to produce ventilators – which would take months anyway – it appears that the government has not got round to ordering any from places that already produce them; or at the very least, that the numbers ordered are so embarrassing that the Department of Health won’t say.
The scale of Johnson’s and Hancock’s guilt for coming deaths that could have been avoided is towering.
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