DOH aims to test 10-M Filipinos for COVID-19

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 21, 2020   •   267

The Department of Health (DOH) aims to target 10 million Filipinos to undergo testing for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, however, said the government does not have the capacity to test all citizens, adding that no country has ever had the capacity to do so.

Hindi naman po natin pwede i-test ang bawa’t mamamayan wala pong bansang nakakagawa nito kahit ang pinakamayaman katulad ng United States of America (You cannot test every citizen, no country has done that even the richest ones like the United States of America),” he said.

However, Duque said they target to test 10% of the total population of the country by 2021. This would exceed the ratio testing capacity of America, Duque added.

“[Our target] is 10 million Filipinos to be tested by 2021. We hope to do the test at 32,000 to 40,000 a day,” he said.

READ: DOH to include PUV drivers in expanded COVID-19 testing

The DOH previously announced they will include other workers in their expanded COVID-19 testing while they recently announced the completion of a Filipino-made coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) test kit.

“We still have lots of testing kits. It’s about 2 million plus testing kits still left para gamitin sa goal na gusto natin (to be used to achieve our goal) for us to have sustained capacity for testing,” according to DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire. –AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

13 contacts of Filipino with UK variant, positive for COVID-19

Marje Pelayo   •   January 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed on Wednesday (January 20) that eight of the co-passengers of the male case of UK variant of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) who arrived from Dubai also tested positive for COVID-19.

All eight, who are Filipino nationals, were immediately quarantined upon arrival and were transported to the isolation facilities right after the result of the RT-PCR tests were released.

Though the first RT-PCR tests were COVID-19 positive, their viral load was low and couldn’t be taken for genome sequencing.

The group has undergone swab testing to determine if they, also, are positive for the UK variant.

Aside from the eight individuals, five other close contacts of the UK variant positive patient have been tested positive for COVID-19.

These include two other passengers who were with them on the flight from Dubai, the patient’s mother and his partner, as well as the healthcare worker who assisted him.

Authorities, however, have not revealed any detail yet as to how the mother of the male patient contracted the disease.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte stressed that there was not a time the male patient went home in his residence in Quezon City since they arrived.

“Ang very close contacts niya ay mga household members nila kasama yung nanay at yung girlfriend niya,” explained Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“Iyong girlfriend niya initially tested negative pero nung nagre-swab tayo, she turned positive. And the mother, nung na-swab siya, ang resulta niya rin ay positive. So pinadala na rin for sequencing yung kanilang mga specimen,” she added.

All samples from the said five COVID-19 positive patients have been sent to the Philippine Genome Center for sequencing to also determine if they are positive for the UK variant.

Results are expected to be out on Thursday.

Meanwhile, six more persons from the 159 close contacts of the patient are still being located.

The DOH has asked the help of Contact Tracing Czar Mayor Benjamin Magalong to immediately locate them.

“153 of them ay na-contact na natin. Nagkaroon na tayo ng pakikipag-ugnayan with them. They are all now isolated. So we are now left with 6 but this morning may report sa akin meron na ring nahanap uli na additional two,” Vergeire.

“So apat nalang po ang natitira na hindi natin nahahanap,” she added.

The DOH is closely monitoring the results of the tests on the patient’s close contacts to prevent the spread of the UK variant in the Philippines.

The agency reminds the public to always be responsible and follow strict minimum health standards whatever variant of COVID-19 is prevailing in the country. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

EUA on Pfizer vaccine won’t be revoked yet despite Norway deaths, DOH says

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The emergency use authorization (EUA) issued last week by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to drug-maker Pfizer-BioNTech for its COVID-19 vaccine will not be revoked yet pending an investigation into claims that it caused the death of some elderly people in Norway, the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Norwegian authorities are still looking into reports that 23 individuals aged 75 to 80 with underlying health conditions died after getting inoculated with COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Vergeire also said that studies need to be done on the matter.

“Pfizer has to submit a report to the Philippine Food And Drug Administration regarding this matter. Once we evaluate the report, base sa kanilang conclusion, that’s the time FDA can decide on the EUA of Pfizer. For now,” Vergeire said.

“Hanggang wala pang sufficient evidence that it was caused by vaccines, status quo tayo on this EUA given to Pfizer,” she added.

The FDA granted EUA to Pfizer last January 14, the first out of four applications it received so far. Other applications are AstraZeneca, China’s Sinovac, and Russia’s Gamaleya Institute.

FDA Director-General Eric Domingo said they are still awaiting a report from Norwegian authorities and that they will “revise the conditions of the EUA as needed,” before starting vaccinations as part of the agency’s protocols on the use of vaccines.

Health authorities also reiterated that COVID-19 vaccines will go through stringent evaluation before it can be approved for use in the country.

“Aside from the safety, and the efficacy na meron ang mga bakuna na papasok, titingnan din nila iyon pong social impact nito, titingnan nila ang affordability and titingnan nila sa response ng equity,” Vergeire said.

“They will be evaluating and then they give their recommendation to the Secretary. Kapag positive ang recommendation, we can procure the specific vaccine,” she added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Vaccine prices circulating online not negotiated prices, DOH clarifies

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday clarified that the prices of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine circulating online were indicative market prices based on the rates published by manufacturers and not the negotiated prices with the Philippine government.

In a statement, the DOH said the prices were generated for the purpose of estimating the proposed budget for the procurement of the vaccine.

The department issued the clarification in response to a price list released by a senator during the Senate’s hearing on the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

The price list showed that total prices for two doses of Moderna cost P3,904 – P4,504; Sinovac, P3,629.50; Pfizer, P2,379; Gamaleya, P1,220; COVAX Facility, P854; AstraZeneca, P610; and Novavax, P366.

“These are not, in any way, the negotiated prices that the government and the manufacturer agreed on,” it said.

The DOH then urged the public to “trust and respect the process that the country, through vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, is undertaking to ensure that Filipinos are afforded the best vaccines at the most ideal prices.”

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