DOH suggests face masks, other creative alternatives as ‘safe’ holiday gifts

Robie de Guzman   •   December 10, 2020   •   363

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday urged the public to consider giving holiday gifts that will promote health and safety from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they are particularly suggesting giving face masks and face shields as gifts to help ensure protection from COVID-19 transmission.

“When planning for the holiday gift-giving, think of ligtas na regalo – which gifts can make them safe. One thing we recommend are face masks which may serve as a constant reminder to the recipient to wear one,” Duque said in a statement.

He also suggests giving gifts like healthy food and fruits, exercise gadgets/equipment that promote physical activity and healthy lifestyle, as well as improve body resistance against diseases.

Duque likewise recommends do-it-yourself (DIY) gifts to limit the chance of in-store shopping. He also noted that the best gift they can give to their loved ones is a safer holiday celebration.

“We can also give DIY gifts that will not require us to go shopping, like handmade cards, arts and crafts, or a video,” he said.

“Such gifts make it more personal and also keep you from going to crowded places, thus reducing the risk of acquiring or transmitting the virus,” he said.

The health chief also reminded the public to check the label on kids’ toys to determine its safety.

“When giving gifts to kids, always ensure that it is safe for them and check the warning label on kids’ toys,” Duque said.

IATF OKs use of Sinovac COVID-19 vax for healthcare workers

Robie de Guzman   •   February 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has agreed with the recommendation of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) to use Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for healthcare workers, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said NITAG experts have concluded that the vaccine will be beneficial and is sufficient to be used for healthcare workers despite its lower efficacy rate of 50.4% for those frequently exposed to COVID-19 patients.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on Monday, issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Sinovac but did not recommend its use for health workers caring for COVID-19 patients due to its lower efficacy rate based on clinical trials conducted in Brazil.

Vergeire stressed that the FDA’s recommendation on Sinovac was not a contraindication and that this does not prohibit healthcare workers from getting the Sinovac jab.

“Ultimately, the EUA of FDA establishes the safety and efficacy of Sinovac and our experts have ruled that SINOVAC’s 100% efficacy rate in preventing moderate and severe cases is indeed sufficient to meet the goal of reducing deaths — protections which we want to afford first and foremost to our healthcare workers,” she said.

Experts from NITAG also emphasized that the vaccine is safe and that they themselves are prepared to receive a shot.

“In our deliberations what we looked at it is safety to ensure the vaccine is safe that has been borne out by the review of the trials,” Dr. Marissa Alejandira, DOH-TAG member, said.

“As for myself, as a healthcare worker who sees COVID-19 patients, I am willing to take this vaccine,” Dr. Edsel Salvana, also a DOH TAG member, said.

They, however, stressed that medical frontliners will not be forced to take the shot and that they will not lose their priority status if they chose to decline the Sinovac vaccine shot.

The DOH said it is now finalizing details on how to allocate the 600,000 Sinovac vaccine doses expected to arrive on Sunday, February 28. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

DOH, NTF: Donated Sinovac jabs to arrive in PH over next few days but rollout on hold

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) and the National Task Force COVID-19 (NTF) on Thursday confirmed that the COVID-19 vaccines made by China drug firm Sinovac will arrive in the country over the next few days but its rollout remains on hold.

The DOH and NTF issued the clarification following reports that the 600,000 vaccine doses donated by the Chinese government will be delivered to the country on February 28, Sunday, making it the first vaccine to arrive in the Philippines.

Malacañang earlier mentioned the possibility of starting the immunization program by March 1 following the vaccines’ arrival but the DOH and the NTF said its allocation and rollout schedule is still pending.

“The Department of Health and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 jointly clarify that as of press time, specific details as to the allocation and subsequent rollout of the 600,000 donated SINOVAC doses are still being evaluated pending the official recommendation of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) and its approval by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID),” the agencies said in a joint statement.

The DOH and NTF said an arrival ceremony for the vaccines will be held at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City but details of the program are still being finalized in coordination with the Chinese Embassy.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday issued an emergency use authorization to Sinovac but did not recommend its use for healthcare workers frequently exposed to COVID-19 patients due to its lower efficacy rate of 50.4% in clinical trials conducted in Brazil.

The FDA, however, clarified that healthcare workers may still get the Sinovac vaccine if they choose to. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

UK declines PH offer to deploy more Filipino nurses in exchange for vaccines

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The United Kingdom (UK) government has declined the offer of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to deploy more nurses to the UK in exchange for vaccines.

UK Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce said the recruitment of nurses and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are two separate issues.

“We’ve got no plans to link vaccines with those conversations around the recruitment of nurses. You know those two strands of conversation I think continue but as I’ve said again we have no plans to link those two issues,” he said during a virtual conference.

DOLE Silvestre Bello III proposed forming an agreement with the UK to lift the deployment cap of healthcare workers, provided the UK would allocate vaccines for them. Bello also made the same proposal with Germany.

DOLE Information and Publication Service (IPS) Director Rolly Francia clarified the proposal was to make sure the nurses are safe when deployed abroad and not for the country to have additional supply of COVID-19 vaccines. This was after the proposal drew ire for making nurses look like ‘commodities’ to be exchanged for vaccines.

“What Secretary Bello wants is to ensure that the nurse gets vaccinated if ever the request for an exemption in the cap would be granted by the President,” Francia said.

Nevertheless, Ambassador Pruce said he will meet with Bello in the coming weeks to further discuss the issue. AAC (with reports from Janice Ingente)

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