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  • Nigel Akuani

Medical Experts urge for Antibody Research

Port Moresby: Amidst the rising deaths and positive cases caused by COVID-19, an antibody research focusing on local strengths has been urged by prominent Medical Practitioners.

The call was made during the second COVID-19 Talk Session that highlighted the Pandemic and the COVID-19 Management, held on Saturday 24th April, at the Catholic Bishops Conference, Waigani.

The session had a distinguished panel comprised of PNG’s Covid-19 Deputy Controller, Dr Daoni Esorom; DrSamuel Maima, Medical Director of Medline Pacific Centre of Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine; Dr Clement Malau, Administrator of East Sepik; and Dr John Tonar MD, Head of Medical Oncology with the SimbuProvincial Health Authority. Also, joining the panel from the United States via social media platform ‘Zoom’ wasDr Rebecca Dezube, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Emphasised in the session were the current key methods used in managing the COVID-19 Pandemic here in Papua New Guinea, impact on the local indigenous population, possible antibodies causing immunity against COVID-19, the fundamental role in fully utilizing local doctors’, scientists’, and institutions’ skills and knowledge to research the cellular structure of antibodies’ defence mechanism, testing and vaccination by method of clusters, impeding issues affecting operations, and a comparison of PNG’s experiences with those of other countries around the world.

Dr Maima questioned why there were few number of deaths compared to the high figures in positive cases and suggested that there was a high chance for antibodies to be present in the immune systems of normal Papua New Guineans. “COVID-19 has always been here and over time our immune systems have grown to adapt and create antibodies to help defend us against the coronavirus,” he added. He said that though the country’s economy and health system were in a fragile state the government should consider investing in studies focused on our local situation.

Describing the coronavirus as a newly evolving virus, Dr Malau said special analysis of its behaviour was key to unlocking and addressing its weaknesses, and local doctors and scientists had an obligation to do so. “We can follow the globally set instructions and safety measurements, but the coronavirus pandemic has presented us with a challenge, the challenge of what we as a country, using the limited resources we have, are willing to do on a local level to prevent and protect our citizens,” he advised.

Dr Tonar called for sourcing of funds into fixing the current health system and a scientific analysis of indigenous individuals’ immune system for the possible presence of antibodies that could help in the battle against COVID-19. “Though we have seen in recent weeks a sudden spike in the number of positive cases, the majority of people from these cases still always tend to recover as though if it were another common illness,” he stated.

Despite calls for an Antibody Research to be carried out in the country, Dr Esorom made it bluntly clear that the AstraZeneca vaccine would be purchased for the good of the people. “On a daily basis the lives of ordinary people are being put at a risk of becoming infected, hospitalized or killed by virus and the vaccination helps to prevent all these experiences,” he said.

Dr Dezube explained how the people in her area of Baltimore, United States, saw a decline in respiratory illnesses. She encouraged the practice of face masks and advised that the safety protocols be adhered to as protection for oneself and one’s family.

Member of the Catholic Professional Society (CPS) of PNG, Michael Varpik, raised the question of whether the vaccine would affect the human DNA and if it would have an adverse reaction in pregnant women and their unborn child. Dr Rebecca assured the participants that mothers who have taken the vaccine have all had normal births. She also added that all mothers are encouraged to get vaccinated.

President of CPS PNG, Paul Harricknen, said the second talk session raised and shed light on important issues in regard to local strengths and extended his thanks to the panel speakers.

The first session held on Saturday 17th April, dwelled on the current testing methods in place and the controversial AstraZeneca Vaccine. A third session has been planned and details of the same will be circulated.

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