Several days ago, the Ministry of Health of T&T announced plans to begin a series of COVID-19-related research studies and its resulting impact on this country.
The proposed aim is to analyse our response and provide a better understanding of the local pattern of disease spread as well prepare for the future.
As expressed by the Minister of Health, “This data must not go to waste, but it should be used to the benefit of T&T, not only for the second or third waves, but to also inform how future governments respond to pandemics.”
This is indeed important and necessary. Not only to document our findings, which indeed will add to the current medical literature, but to use robust research methodology to examine our experience with the novel coronavirus, which will be of particular benefit to us as a country and a region.
The WHO has continued to emphasise the importance of supporting global research priorities in the hope of learning from the current pandemic and maintaining a coordinated response while also preparing for the next unforeseen epidemic.
As with any new disease, there is a thirst for information. Good quality studies that ask the right questions, use reproducible and unbiased methodology and draw reasonable conclusions are urgently needed. These conclusions must ultimately be supported by good hard evidence.
With the ongoing pandemic, policymakers, health care providers, and public health officials are also required to look for real-time information to help make decisions that reduce the impact of the disease.
Our experience with COVID-19 here in T&T has been somewhat different from many around the world and there is a need to further delve into this.
The use of a statistical model may be helpful here. Modeling is a way to use what we know about a disease now, to help us understand what could happen in the future and how our actions may affect that.
By creating our own disease model, we can include our local data, remove bias, and ensure valuable insights and information are not overlooked. What we learn from these models is just one factor to consider in making decisions like staying at home and social distancing. This is just as crucial in determining when to relax measures and how best to do this in order to protect the health of our citizens.
We may not be at the forefront in clinical drug trials or vaccine studies, but T&T can hold its own by providing the scientific community with our own data and our own unique experience.
Our patients may have presented differently than those in other international reports and our management strategies may have been similarly diverse. It is our duty to explore this, report it and publish it.
Research is a vital aspect of any strategy to stop Covid-19. It is equally important however that this is done in the right way. The fundamental principles of clinical research must apply.
This includes ensuring ethical approval is obtained from relevant committees before embarking upon any studies and using systems that always safeguard personal data and patient confidentiality.
Complete transparency is critical, and all reports must be subjected to intense scrutiny and expert review by the international scientific community.
It is encouraging that our government has emphasised the need for research and documentation of our COVID-19 experience as it allows us to better understand and manage this disease in our local setting. It also ensures that accurate information is relayed to the public while maintaining safety as a priority.