The Military Command (MC) the highest strategic decision making body of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) held its meeting today to deliberate on the matter concerning the registration and use of the Interferon B drug for the military community. Interferon B is a drug that has been manufactured in Cuba and has been safely used world-wide for over 30 years.
Over the last four months a lot has been reported and written about the Interferon alfa-2b or the Heberon alfa R, since the South African National Defence Force acquired the medication from Cuba on emergency basis following the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020. There has since been a great interest in the drug and its efficacy as an immune-modulator in mitigation of Covid-19 complications including death and need for hospitalisation.
The SANDF embarked on extensive and intensive consultations with fraternal Militaries that we have bilateral and cooperation agreements. Militaries such as the Chinese, Cuban and other partners were approached. As such discussions were held as to what was available to mitigate against soldiers being compromised in their frontline duties as required. Objective data shows that more than 8000 subjects in Cuba, Pakistan, Iran, Ukraine, Brazil and others have safely benefited from Heberon use. Furthermore other western countries followed suit.
It should be placed on record that the SANDF communicated with the Cuban military and in these exploratory talks. It was revealed that the use of Interferon alfa-2b as an immune-modulator in the management of COVID-19 was beneficial to patients who had tested positive and those who have been in close contact with a positive person. In fact evidence is mounting that countries that use Heberon have lower mortality rates due to Covid-19.
The drug was not procured for wholesale and distribution but for the sole use by members of the SANDF who were employed to assist the country in managing the pandemic. It should be mentioned that Interferon is not a vaccine and does not treat COVID-19 pneumonia among hospitalised patients, but it confers heightened protection against Covid-19 as the SARS-2 Corona Virus is known to attack natural interferons of the victim.
This pro-active approach by the SANDF was informed by the generally accepted understanding, that the military is the last line of defence in all countries. Defence forces around the world are well known for their medical research for protecting their own forces and results of that research has had beneficial impact on the wider society just like other technologies that have been developed by the military. The SANDF is no exception.
The South African Military Health Services duly applied for Section 21 for the use of the drug to SAHPRA and got approval on the 5th of October 2020 for the purposed use detailed in that application.
As the Military Command, we want to put it on record that the Surgeon-General is the only authority for medical force protection in the SANDF during war time and peace time. The health and lives of our soldiers is of paramount importance.