NAIA One-Stop-Shop denies forcing OFWs to pricey COVID-19 swab test providers

Marje Pelayo   •   October 27, 2020   •   1524

MANILA, Philippines – The management of the One-Stop-Shop at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has denied allegations that it is forcing overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to take coronavirus swab testing in private testing centers to earn extra. 

In a statement, the NAIA One-Stop-Shop maintained that it is not collecting any fee from any OFW for the swab test since the procedure is being shouldered by the government.

“Ito ay bilang pagbibigay-linaw sa mga alegasyon na kumakalat ngayon sa mga social media sites na pinipilit umano ang mga overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) na tangkilikin o gumamit ng pribadong RT-PCR test providers sa NAIA, upang magbayad ng mas mahal,” the statement read.

[This is to clarify against allegations circulating on social media sites that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are being forced to take private RT-PCR test providers in NAIA and pay a higher price.]

“Hindi po ito totoo [This is not true],” it read further.

The Shop management explained that they only allow two private testing laboratories for non-OFWs. First is Detoxicare which is a partner of Philippine Airlines (PAL) and the PH Airport Diagnostic Laboratory that is in partnership with the Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions Inc. (PAGSS).

The said laboratories have been operating in NAIA since July 27 in accordance with an agreement signed with the Task Group on the Management of Returning OFWs.

Under the agreement, the two laboratories may charge P4,000 for an RT-PCR test which results can be released within 48 hours.

But the agreement also states that in the event of emergency cases like death of a family member or emergency medical condition that requires immediate release of results, an OFW may choose to request to speed up the process but with additional fee and a clearance from the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA).

For his part, Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman Senator Richard Gordon insists that the government should investigate the alleged irregularities in swab testing at NAIA.

He alleged that the private laboratories in NAIA are charging P12,000 to P20,000 for each swab test.

“Nakikita ninyo ang inconvenience na ginagawa nitong raket na ito. Hindi makauwi kaagad. Maghihintay sa hotel, gastos. Tapos meron silang [Now you see the inconvenience causing this scheme. (OFWs) cannot go home yet so they have to stay in hotels, they spend money there. This is a] ladderized type of charging. You’re taking advantage of the misery of other people,” Gordon said.

Meanwhile, the national government is coordinating with other testing laboratories that offer lower prices of swab tests which Malacanang eyes to service swab testing in airports and seaports.

“Kakausapin po namin ngayon ang mga mas mababang sinisingil, [We will coordinate with the (laboratories) charging lower amount,]” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

“Baka dapat sila ang manguna sa aiport at sa pantalan na mas mababa nga ang pwedeng bayaran ng ating mga kababayan. Mga  P1,750 hanggang P2,000 lang po ang sinisingil ng mga testing labs na ito [They can be the ones to front in airports and seaports and offer lower service fee to our kababayans. These laboratories charge only P1,750 or P2,000 per test],” he added.

These testing laboratories include the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI), the Philippine Children’s Hospital, the Lung Center of the Philippines and Perpetual Help Hospital. MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

PH’s first 2 Omicron deaths were unvaccinated elderlies with co-morbidities – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 19, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has reported two fatalities linked to the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

The DOH said the two death cases were “aged more than 60 years, unvaccinated, and had pre-existing medical conditions.”

“Both were detected during the latest whole genome sequencing,” the agency said in a message to reporters.

The two patients were from Metro Manila and Central Luzon.

These are the first reported fatalities among those infected with Omicron in the country, it added.

The DOH stressed that while the Omicron variant mostly presents with asymptomatic and mild disease, data showed that the elderly, those with comorbidities, and unvaccinated are still most at risk for fatalities.

The health department also reported that 492 more Omicron cases have been detected in the Philippines based on the latest whole genome sequencing involving 714 samples.

The newly reported Omicron cases are composed of 332 local cases and 160 returning overseas Filipinos.

The indicated addresses of the said cases were from the following areas:

  • National Capital Region with 227 cases
  • CALABARZON with 76 cases
  • Central Luzon with 11 cases
  • Central Visayas with 5 cases
  • Cagayan Valley with 2 cases
  • Western Visayas, with 2 cases
  • Davao Region with 2 cases
  • Soccsksargen with 2 cases
  • Cordillera Administrative Region with 2 cases
  • Ilocos Region with 1 case
  • MIMAROPA with 1 case
  • Bangsamoro region with 1 case

The DOH said that based on the case line list, three cases are still active, 467 cases have been tagged as recovered, while there are 20 cases whose outcomes are still being verified.

This brings the total number of confirmed Omicron variant cases in the country to 535.

ALAMIN: Magandang kumbinasyon ng COVID-19 vaccine primary at booster doses

Robie de Guzman   •   January 19, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Target ngayon ng pamahalaan na mapalakas pa ang ginagawang COVID-19 vaccine booster administration sa gitna ng dumaraming kaso ng COVID-19 sa bansa at paglitaw ng mga bagong variant.

Bagaman sinasabi ng mga dalubhasa na epektibo ang lahat ng brand ng anti-COVID-19 vaccines na available sa Pilipinas, nagbigay pa rin ng ilang rekomendasyon ang mga eksperto sa bakuna kung ano ang magandang kombinasyon ng primary dose at booster shot.

Ayon kay Infectious Disease Doctor Rontgene Solante, miyembro ng Vaccine Expert Panel, base sa pag-aaral mas mataas ang naidadagdag sa antibody level sa mga indibidwal na nakatanggap ng primary dose ng Sinovac, na nagpa-booster shot ng ibang brand gaya ng Astrazeneca, Janssen at Pfizer.

“All the heterologous regimes had spike antibody response at day 28 that were superior to homologous booster. Ang ibig sabihin nito, ‘yung nakatanggap ng Astra, Janssen and Pfizer vaccine, mas mataas yung antibody level nila kumpara doon sa nakatanggap ng sinovac as a third dose,” ani Solante.

Habang ang mga nagpabakuna naman ng AstraZeneca para sa primary dose ay magkakaroon nang mas mataas na antas ng antibody kung homologous o kaparehong brand rin ang ipina-booster shot.

“They also look at the 3rd dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine that were given to those who were initially received the AstraZeneca vaccine. They found out that antibody titers were significantly higher,” ani Solante.

“When the third dose was given using the homologous booster using the AstraZeneca nakita natin na it went up, mas doble,” dagdag pa niya.

Bukod dito, nakita rin umano sa mga pag-aaral na tumataas ang immune response ng isang tao na nakatanggap ng primary series ng Pfizer at Moderna, na nagpa-booster shot ng AstraZeneca.

“They got positive results from a preliminary analysis. It showed that this vaccine the variant-specific vaccine given as a third booster dose can increase immune response to Alpha, Beta and you also have against Delta and then Gamma,” ang wika ni Solante.

“The main point here is that with variant-specific vaccine, it can be protective against that variant and have cross-protection against other variants of concern,” giit pa nito.

Dagdag pa ni Solante, kahit pa man Beta variant-specific vaccine ang AstraZeneca, nakatutulong pa rin ito para pataasin ang antibody response laban sa Omicron variant.

Samantala, ayon naman kay vaccine expert Dr. Mario Jiz, magandang kombinasyon rin ang AstraZeneca bilang primary dose habang Pfizer o Moderna naman ang ikatlong dose.

“mRNA vaccines are the newer generation of vaccines so they are known to be very, very robust antibody responders so these vaccines especially si Moderna which is yung amount niya kasi is much higher compared to Pfizer eh… We really expect that mRNA vaccines will induce very high antibody levels,” ani Jiz.

Isa rin sa ipinunto ni Dr. Jiz, ang kahalagahan ng pagpapabakuna kahit primary series pa lamang upang magkaroon na kahit papaano ng proteksyon laban sa COVID-19.

Samantala, muli namang nag-paalala ang DOH at vaccine experts sa publiko na samantalahin na ang pagpapabakuna upang maiwasan ang pag-mutate ng virus, at pagkakaospital at matinding sintomas sakaling tamaan ng COVID-19.

Pagbibigay ng COVID-19 vaccine boosters sa mga botika, simula na sa Enero 20

Robie de Guzman   •   January 19, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Sisimulan na sa araw ng Huwebes, Enero 20 ang pilot implementation ng programang “Resbakuna sa Botika,” na naglalayong gawin na ring COVID-19 vaccine booster sites ang ilang pharmacy at clinic sa bansa.

Ayon kay Presidential Adviser for COVID-19 response Vince Dizon, gagawin ang pilot run ng program sa limang pharmacy at dalawang private clinic sa Metro Manila.

“Bukas po, Huwebes, January 20 at sa Biyernes, January 21 magsisimula na po yung ating ‘Resbakuna sa Botika’ at sa mga iba’t-ibang mga clinics. Simula muna dito sa NCR pero mabilis nating ie-expand yan sa iba’t-ibang mga lugar lalung-lalo na sa malalaking siyudad sa bansa, Luzon, Visayas at Mindanao,” ani Dizon.

Kabilang sa mga botika at klinika na lalahok sa pilot implementation ang Mercury Drug, Watsons, the Generics Pharmacy, Generika, South Star Drug , Qualimed at Healthway.

Ngunit paalala ni Dizon, ekslusibo lang muna ang mga pasilidad na ito para sa pagbibigay ng booster shot sa mga nakakumpleto na ng primary series ng COVID-19 vaccine.

Ang mga pharmacist sa itinalagang mga botika rin ang siyang magbabakuna.

“’Yung mga pharmacists po natin ay ‘yan po ay mga qualified naman. Sila po ay dumaan na sa mga training kaya po sila ay importanteng dagdag sa ating vaccination program lalong lalo na sa kapanahunan ngayon na marami sa ating mga vaccinators sa LGU ang nagkakasakit,” ani Dizon.

Nagpahayag naman ng suporta sa program ang grupong Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) dahil makakadadagdag ito sa pwersa ng vaccinators.

Ayon sa PHAP, sanay ang pharmacists sa pagpapatupad ng health protocols at handa naman ang kanilang mga botika upang matiyak na maiiwasan ang hawaan ng COVID-19 sa mga magpapabakuna.

Sinabi naman ni Dizon na sa ngayon ay pinag-aaralan na ng pamahalaan ang mga insentibo na maaaring ibigay sa mga pharmacist na tutulong sa pagbabakuna.

“Ngayon po yan ay pinag-uusapan po natin ngayon pero nag-volunteer rin po kasi ang mga botika rin sa kanilang serbisyo at nagpapasalamat tayo sa kanila pero paguusapan po natin with DOH kung ano ang insentibo natin sa kanila,” ang wika ng opisyal.

Una nang sinabi ng pamahalaan na 100 booster shots ang nakalaan sa bawat kalahok na pharmacy kada araw at may kabuuan namang 3,500 doses sa loob ng isang linggong pilot run.

Paalala ng mga otoridad sa publiko na kailangan pa ring magparehistro bago makapagpaturok ng booster dose sa mga botika dahil ang mga lokal na pamahalan ang mangangasiwa sa registration at documentation habang ang mga pasilidad naman ang mangangasiwa sa aktuwal na pagtuturok ng booster dose. (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Aileen Cerrudo)

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