Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Friday the Department of Health (DOH) had allowed the “remote collection” of specimens from the homes of individuals suspected to have COVID-19.
However, she stressed the collection of specimens from homes might only be done by licensed laboratories for COVID-19 testing.
“This will be like an extension of their services. They can provide home service, but with conditions or requirements,” said Vergeire in an interview at GMA’s Unang Hirit heard nationwide.
“The process is of quality. We will be doing the same things— same with the laboratories,” said Vergeire.
She said those getting the specimens should wear PPEs (personal protective equipment) and they should notify the Department of Health when they are going to offer this kind of service so we could monitor them.
She said laboratories must duly inform the DOH that they were going to offer such services for monitoring purposes
The DOH official added the health department has previously monitored other laboratories that provide the same service to persons suspected to have COVID-19.
“Actually, we have monitored laboratories that offer this service and we advised them of protocols.”
Procurement of vaccines
The DOH said it was meeting separately with representatives of American drug giant Pfizer and the Russian Embassy in Manila to discuss the possible procurement of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines, Vergeire confirmed.
The agency will be joined by officials from the Office of the President and the Department of Foreign Affairs, but Vergeire said she could not disclose any details yet.
Asked if Manila’s talks with the Russian and Chinese vaccine makers would affect its negotiations with the American company, Vergeire said multiple sources for an effective vaccine were in fact beneficial for the country.
“I don’t think this will affect our negotiations with other institutions and other countries and I think it’s not only the Philippines conducting negotiations with different manufacturers, all countries do that… It’s complimentary,” she said in a media briefing.
The House of Representatives’ Committee on People Participation has vowed to facilitate cooperation in the conduct of clinical studies of vaccines for Covid-19 to ensure their availability in the country at the earliest possible time.
Rep. Florida Robes, the panel’s chairperson, made the statement during a committee meeting late Thursday with representatives from the Russian Embassy on the updates of its newly-developed vaccine for COVID-19, the Sputnik V.
Robes said her Committee would make representations with the concerned agencies like the Departments of Health and Science and Technology to inquire into the status of the vaccine now being studied for Phase 3 of the clinical trials.
“We will help fast track cooperation with the Russian government and our local agencies. We will hold another meeting with the DOH and the DOST for them to brief us on the status of Sputnik V so that we will know if there are concerns that can be addressed so that we can have access to it at the earliest possible time,” Robes said.
The DOH on Friday said the clinical trials for anti-flu drug Avigan as a treatment for COVID-19 would start within the month after the supposed commencement last September 1 had been delayed.
“We target to start this September, we are just now waiting for pending documents for processing,” Vergeire said in an online forum.
The documents awaiting finalization include clinical trial agreements and insurance policy for those who would participate.
In August, Japan donated around 199,000 Avigan tablets to the Philippines to be used for trials on 100 patients.
Masses in church
Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani Jr. on Friday hoped the government would allow more faithful to attend Masses in churches.
Bacani said many people need to express their faith amid the seven-month crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease pandemic.
“A man with a strong faith is less likely to be depressed and a person of faith will not find any real reason to commit suicide. That’s why it is important at this time to let people be able to practice their faith and to find hope from motives of faith,” he said in an interview over church-run Radio Veritas.
Bacani said he was hoping that the government would allow at least 50 percent of the seating capacity of a church to address the increasing number of suicide cases in the country.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House of Representatives ways and means committee, said that even before it got its legislative charter or enabling law, funding for the establishment of the Virology Institute of the Philippines, that he proposed under House Bill 6793, was already included in the proposed 2021 National Expenditure Program.
This, as the House started on Friday its scrutiny of the Palace-proposed P4.506 trillion national budget for 2021.
Under the NEP, P283 million is allocated for the establishment of the institute which will be the country’s research center for cures and preventive methods and products against viruses.
Salceda said this budget was “preliminary,” and that he would ask the Department of Budget and Management to clarify whether this was merely for capital outlays or would already include organizational expenses.