Evangelical groups have been giving a drug used for parasitic infections in animals to people living in the Amazon and passing it off as a vaccination against coronavirus.
As the world races to find a vaccine, evangelic groups and a mayor in the region of Loreto, in north-eastern Peru’s Amazon area, have been giving locals injections of ivermectin, which has not been proven to be effective and has “terrible” side effects.
Spanish newspaper El Pais report up to 5,000 people in the town of Nauta have received the treatment with Leonardo Tello, the director of local radio station Radio Ucamara, telling reporters “the side effects have been terrible”.
Tello said that since May, “the mayor of the province and an Evangelic alliance have called citizens, using radio stations, to be vaccinated with ivermectin as if it were a vaccine against coronavirus. In Nauta, at least 5,000 people have received it.”
He said that many of those who had received the treatment had suffered an increase in their heart rate whilst others have warned of diarrhoea as a side effect.
Tello says that local Evangelical pastors have linked coronavirus with the devil and the end of the world, offering the injections as “a salvation”.
Wadson Trujillo, the head of the indigenous community in Cuninico, said that volunteers from the Misiones Evangelicas de la Amazonia (Amazon Evangelical Missions) had gone to the area to give injections of ivermectin to villagers, saying that it was a medicine passed by law that “gives positive results as a vaccine”.
He said: “Almost everybody here had coronavirus symptoms and they are fighting against it with homemade medicine.”
He said that seven of the 27 coronavirus tests carried out in the community had come back positive, saying that they now have face masks for the whole population.
Local media reported that in the Peruvian Amazon, where around one million people live and around 300,000 people are indigenous, fear of coronavirus has seen the widespread use of traditional medicines which have not been proven effective against the virus.
The General Management of Medicine of the Ministry of Health of Peru have already warned about the use of ivermectin saying that it has not yet met all the requirements for use on humans.
The ministry said: “Ivermectin for animals should not be used as a replacement for ivermectin for use on human beings in order to treat coronavirus.”
Ivermectin is under investigation as a possible inhibitor of SARS-CoV-2 which causes Covid-19 but clinical trials have not yet been completed.
According to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University, Peru has registered 251,338 cases of coronavirus and 7,861 related deaths.