PH gov’t urged to mass-produce COVID-19 locally-developed test kits, raise fund for R & D

Robie de Guzman   •   March 11, 2020   •   1259

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is urging the government to immediately mass-produce the test kits developed by local scientists for the detection of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.

The test kits were developed by local scientists at the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health (UPNIH) through funding provided by the Department of Science and Technology.

Its public use has been given a greenlight by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday.

“I urge the government and UP (University of the Philippines) if supplemental budget is necessary for this, I am more than willing to sponsor the measure,” Zubiri said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“Since this is more affordable and more accessible, we will able to cater to more patients,” he added.

He also thanked local scientists for this timely achievement after health authorities earlier revealed they have limited test kits amid rising coronavirus cases in the country.

“Thank you to our UP scientists for this speedy answer to our test kit problem. One reason for the growing panic in the past few days has been the severe lack of testing kits-we had only 2,000 testing kits, which is simply not enough to cater to our population, even just in Metro Manila,” he said.

“With UP’s test kits, we can now more have a better diagnostic process for the virus, and hopefully, this will allow us to develop a better containment strategy as well, as we find out which areas have the most cases,” he added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson also believes that the new test kits for coronavirus will help the government in dealing with the COVID-19 threat.

“Despite measly state support, our local scientists have given us a major boost – and much-needed hope – in dealing with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), by way of test kits developed by local experts at the UPNIH,” he said in a separate statement issued Wednesday.

“Tests using these kits will cost less than 1/6 of those using imported kits,” he added.

Lacson also reiterated his proposal to raise the budgetary allocation for research and development, saying “it is high time our government throw its support behind our homegrown scientists.”

“I have repeatedly raised the issue of the minuscule budgetary allocation for research and development (R&D) in the national budget year in, year out – an average of, lo and behold, 0.4% of the annual budget from 2016 to 2020, including 0.39% for 2020,” he said.

“For the same five-year period, the DOST’s average budget is only P20 billion or a meager 0.56% against the trillions of pesos that we pass every year as our national budget,” he added.

Lacson believes that local scientists can contribute more if they are given adequate support by the government.

“Had our homegrown scientists been given the much-needed additional budgetary support for R&D, who knows how much more they can contribute? As it is, by not supporting them adequately, we’re wasting their talents and opportunities to help our nation,” he said.

“This should be a wake-up call for our government officials who do not invest in research and development (R&D) through the budget,” he added.

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)

Senators want pilot testing of 100 schools for in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators are pushing for the conduct of pilot testing of face-to-face classes, citing the need for immediate experience to help fine-tune the reopening of physical classes in schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Francis Pangilinan urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to pilot the in-person classes to an initial 100 schools instead of the suggested 1,605.

“Kung mayroong UK variant at natatakot doon sa pagkalat, e di bawasan natin ang pilot areas, gawin nating isang daan muna. Ang importante, mayroon tayong pagkukunan ng karanasan ngayon pa lang at hindi iyong pagdating doon sa dulo saka natin gagawin dahil nakaangkla tayo sa isang libo,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan earlier said that they initially chose 1,065 schools, or five schools per division, to participate in the dry run of face-to-face classes.

Malaluan said that this figure is equivalent to only over two percent of the more than 47,000 public schools in the country.

“Baka naman pupuwedeng mayroon kayong alternative just to be able to get a system going and be able to fine-tune. Ang importante napa-pilot at nakikita iyong mga gaps so that when you expand it even to 1,065, you already have the experience of 500 or 300 to work around and to work on the necessary adjustments,” Pangilinan said.

“We need the experience now, we need the lessons drawn now because we don’t have the luxury of time,” he added.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairperson of Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, also expressed support for the dry run of in-person classes.

“’’Di naman po ibig sabihin na kinancel yung face-to-face, titigil na rin tayo sa pilot schools. This is a good way for our scientists to study what can be done to mitigate the effects of COVID-19,” he said in a separate statement.

DepEd earlier proposed the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes in 1,605 schools, citing an internal DepEd survey that clamor is from the learners themselves.

The pilot testing was scheduled in January but it was postponed by President Rodrigo Duterte due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.

DepEd made a fresh bid for the resumption of physical classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission this month, citing a survey that showed more than 50% of students were in favor of attending face-to-face classes.

It was still rejected by Duterte as he stressed that classes will only resume once the vaccination against COVID-19 starts.

ALAMIN: Mga paghahanda bago magpabakuna kontra COVID-19

Marje Pelayo   •   February 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Ang mga bakuna na lamang ang kulang upang maisakatuparan na ang vaccination program ng pamahalaan.

Halos lahat ng mga lokal na pamahalaan ay nakapagsagawa na ng mga dry run sa sistemang ipatutupad oras na magsimula ang pagbabakuna.

Tiniyak ng mga ito na wala nang aalalahanin ang publiko dahil libreng ibibigay ang mga bakuna.

Kinakailangan na lamang ang pagpaparehistro sa kanya-kanyang lokal na pamahalaan upang mabakunahan.

Ngunit nagbigay paalala ang mga doktor sa mga dapat gawin ng isang indibidwal upang maihanda ang sarili bago magpabakuna.

Ayon kay Dr. Rontgene Solante, isa sa miembro ng vaccine expert panel ng Department of Health (DOH), mahalaga na maikondisyong mabuti ang pangangatawan ng isang taong tatanggap ng COVID-19 vaccine.

Una, dapat ay may sapat na tulog at nakakain ng maayos ang isang magpapabakuna.

Pangalawa, hindi nakaranas ng pag-ubo o lagnat sa nakalipas na tatlong araw bago ang takdang araw ng pagpapabakuna. Kung may sipon lamang ay maaring maituloy ang pagpapabakuna.

Pangatlo at pinaka-mahalaga sa lahat, dapat ay nakahanda ang kaisipan ng isang magpapabakuna at wala nang anumang agam-agam dahil maaring makaapekto ito sa pisikal na kondisyon.

“Talagang preparahan mo siya. Maganda ang (kalusugan) mo, walang sintomas, walang ubo, walang lagnat at saka ang importante dito ready ka sa pagbabakuna,” payo ng eksperto.

“Tanggalin mo rin ang takot mo dahil sa bakuna,  minsan kapag nandoon pa rin ang fear mo o hesitations, baka kapag ini-inject iyan may mga ganoong klaseng kliyente na kapag ini-inject, talagang natatakot. Baka mas lalong mag-manify ang side effects,” dagdag nito.

Paliwanag ni Dr. Solante, normal lamang na magkaroon ng side effects sa isang tao ang kahit anong bakuna.

Payo ng doktor, iwasan na uminom ng anomang gamot upang maibsan ang sakit na mararamdaman pagkatapos na mabakunahan at sa halip ay agad na kumonsulta sa doktor kung kinakailangan.

“Kadalasan kung meron kang lagnat kung sa tingin mo hindi kaya ng katawan mo very uncomfortable for you iinom ka ng Parecetamol. Pero kung kaya naman as much as possible, wala tayong inumin. Uminom lang ng maraming tubig tapos i-monitor,” payo ni Dr. Solante.

“Tapos ang medyo masakit kung saan tinuturok ang bakuna. Usually nawawala iyan within 48 to 72 hours,” dagdag nito.

Nauna nang sinabi ng Food and Drug Administration (FDA) na magkakaiba contraindications ng mga bakuna.

Gaya na lamang ng Pfizer-BioNTech na hindi pwedeng ibigay sa may mga allergy, maging sa mga buntis at breastfeeding mothers.

Ang Astrazeneca naman ay patuloy pang iniimbestigahan ang kaso ng mga elderly na namatay sa Norway matapos na mabakunahan nito.

Habang ang Sinovac ay hindi naman inirerekomenda na gamitin sa mga healthcare workers na madalas ma-expose sa mga pasyenteng may COVID-19. MNP (sa ulat ni Joan Nano)


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