Senator Christopher “Bong” Go welcomed the decision of the government’s laboratory experts’ panel to allow the cheaper, faster, and safer saliva tests for Covid-19 as an alternative to the real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.
The recommendation of the panel has been submitted to Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III.
“Matagal na po nating ni-rekomenda sa DOH na pag-aralan ang saliva testing bilang alternatibo sa kasalukuyang swab test na ginagamit natin. Kaya naman po natutuwa tayo na, sa wakas, aprubado na ang paggamit nito sa bansa (We have long recommended to DOH to study the saliva testing as an alternative to the current swab test that we are using. That’s why we are happy, that finally, it was approved to be used in the country),” Go said.
“Malaking ginhawa po ito sa ating mga kababayan dahil hindi lamang po ito mas mura, accurate din po ito at mas ligtas (It unburdens our countrymen because it is not only cheaper, it is also accurate and safer),” he added.
As the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Go presided over the Senate hearing last Oct. 19, 2020, and asked the DOH, if possible, to adopt the saliva-based Covid-19 testing in the country.
He said the test would be much cheaper, faster, and safer and which will significantly help revive the tourism industry.
“Baka makatulong itong (This) saliva-based testing (might help) to restart our tourism industry which was severely affected by this pandemic,” he earlier said.
At that time, Duque said saliva testing was still being studied by the Health Technology Assessment Council, an independent body created by the Universal Health Care Act.
Earlier, the PRC piloted a study to determine the accuracy of tests for Covid-19 using saliva specimens. The initial results have shown that the tests are relatively accurate.
The DOH has allowed the initial roll-out of the use of the less expensive saliva test for the new coronavirus but only among Philippine Red Cross molecular laboratories.
The PRC began saliva tests on January 25 and its molecular laboratories in Mandaluyong and Port Area in Manila are made available.
By February, the PRC expects that all of its thirteen molecular laboratories all over the country will have been able to conduct Covid-19 saliva testing.
The laboratory experts’ panel said that only PRC laboratories could conduct the saliva test for now because the validation test result by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine is still pending.
The saliva test reportedly costs PHP1,500 to PHP2,000, cheaper than RT-PCR test which costs around PHP3,800 to PHP5,000. Aside from being cheaper, the saliva test also delivers a faster result and is less invasive. A study by the PRC also found that the saliva test is 98.11-percent accurate.
The Food and Drug Administration also mentioned that the Covid-19 saliva test is safer as compared to the swab test because the sample is self-collected and does not require direct contact with a health professional.
Other advantages of using saliva specimen collection and testing include allowing the collection of a specimen outside hospitals, multiple samples can be easily obtained, a reduced need for health care professionals handling during the sample collection, reduced nosocomial transmission risk (spread of infection in health facilities), reduced test waiting time, and reduced PPE, transport and storage costs. This non-invasive and economical collection method can help in community monitoring, both for asymptomatic infections and can help guide in retesting to clear a patient in ending quarantine.
Meanwhile, Go continues to emphasize the need to ensure the availability, accessibility, and affordability of Covid-19 testing as its demand continues to grow amid the pandemic.
Amid the emergence of new variants of Covid-19 in the country, with three cases being minors, Go appealed to authorities to strengthen the necessary health protocols to avoid the further spread of the disease.
“Huwag muna tayo magkumpyansa, lalo na pagdating sa kalusugan ng mga kabataan. Responsibilidad nating proteksyunan sila. Sa lahat ng desisyon natin, isaalang-alang natin palagi ang buhay at kapakanan ng bawat Pilipino (Let’s not be complacent especially when it comes to the health of the youth. It’s our responsibility to protect them. In all of our decisions, let’s us always consider the life and welfare of every Filipino),” Go said in a statement.
Go also urged the public to cooperate with the government and follow guidelines imposed by the government and health experts.
“Habang sinisigurado ng ating gobyerno na magkakaroon ng sapat, ligtas at epektibong bakuna para sa lahat, konting tiis lang po. Patuloy po tayong magbayanihan. Ang simpleng mga patakarang ito, kung susundin, ay makapagliligtas ng buhay ng kapwa nating Pilipino (While our government ensures that there would be adequate, safe and effective vaccines for all, let’s be patient. Let’s continue to help each other. If we follow simple guidelines, we can save the life of another Filipino)” he added. (PNA)