3448204
Sheldon Henry places the sample to get his result.

For just $200, someone can purchase a COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test kit at a pharmacy.

At least that was the experience of one woman who visited a Port-of-Spain drugstore yesterday.

“I saw on TikTok that you guys are selling Rapid Antigen Test…I’d like to get one, please,” the woman asked.

Without hesitation, the saleswoman behind the counter pulled out the test with the brand name Hightop and sold it to the customer, who asked if there were specific instructions to use the test that was made in China.

“All the instructions on it…you swabbing the same way like in the hospital,” the worker said.

She could not say whether their pharmacy was the only one selling the home kits.

Last week, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said home testing kits would soon come to Trinidad and Tobago and importers could apply to the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division to bring them in.

Guardian Media reached out to Ministry of Health officials about approvals for sale to the public and the minister responded via WhatsApp to say he passed the “technical questions” to the Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram.

Parasram was also contacted but up until press time we received no further response.

Head of the Pharmacy Board Andrew Rahaman said he had no idea that pharmacies were given the green light to sell COVID-19 home testing kits but said they were not the ones to blame.

“I don’t work Customs so I don’t know how it came into the country,” Rahaman said.

The head of the Board said since the minister’s announcement last week, pharmacies started contacting him to ask when the sale of the home kits would begin but he said he got no official word from the Ministry of Health.

“I was supposed to get information on what is the process. When that happened I started hearing that there was a wholesaler in Trinidad, a well-known one, a legitimate one, that had the test in Trinidad already,” he revealed.

Rahaman said his only conclusion was that the wholesaler started sales when the minister made the announcement.

“The onus would be on the wholesalers to get the authority to import and the authority to resell to pharmacies,” he said.

The pharmacist said there is a possibility that approvals were given by the Ministry of Health but if no official body or the wholesalers know how the Rapid Antigen Tests reached behind pharmacy counters it could have been brought here illegally.

“I’m talking about suitcase traders now. How does it move from customers bond to suitcase traders’ hand without documentation?” he asked.

However it got here, Rahaman said he believes pharmacists should administer the tests to ensure that they’re done accurately and the results are submitted to the Ministry of Health.

“I am hoping that the only ones that they approve are the ones that are not as invasive to have to go to the back of the throat because someone administering for themselves, they will not be able to send it far back enough to get the proper sample,” he explained.

The Hightop one-step test with instructions that suggest it be done by a health professional gives results in 15 minutes.

It came with a swab to insert in a nose for 15 seconds, an extraction reagent (mixture) to dip the swab in and shake for ten seconds and the rapid test to drop the mixture in afterwards. The person then waits to see whether there is one line (negative) or two lines (positive). Instructions came in several languages.