Extensive targeted testing for symptomatic seniors

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that RT-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction) tests should be aimed at symptomatic people, especially the elderly – 60 years and older – and those who are immunocompromised, or those with weakened immune systems.

“It would be more prudent to reserve testing for symptomatic people, especially elderly and vulnerable symptomatic,” said WHO representative in the Philippines, Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe.

“Targeted testing is a better use of resources on RT-PCR testing and the assumption that if you have a confirmed case in a household and other people are asymptomatic, there is no need to confirm the test,” you just have to assume it’s Omicron, because it’s gentler it’s safer to just isolate or quarantine as appropriate, ”he added.

Abeyasinghe said it would not be necessary to test and confirm every infection unless the patient is from vulnerable groups or the elderly.

“It is also not very useful for testing other asymptomatic people in a household once you have a confirmed case of omicron in a household due to the higher transmissibility they are very likely to get infected. or have already been infected. “

Other countries are also practicing prioritizing confirmatory swab testing or RT-PCR testing, infectious disease specialist Dr Edsel Salvaña said earlier, citing Israel and the Canadian province of Ontario where the least 60 years old received antigen tests.

“If you overload the RT-PCR tests, the turnaround time becomes longer. Medicines must be administered within 5 days of the onset of symptoms, ”added Salvaña.

Meanwhile, two manufacturers of self-administered COVID-19 test kits are seeking product registration certificates from the Food and Drug Authority, the Department of Health said.

The FDA is “speeding up” the review process so Filipinos can access these home test kits, DOH spokesperson and Under Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

“These are not yet available in the Philippines because the manufacturers have just submitted their product registration applications and not because they have not obtained the regulatory clearance that we are dealing with,” Vergeire said during a virtual press conference.

The availability of the product in the market is expected to meet the growing demand for COVID-19 test kits in the Philippines as the country experiences a further rise in the number of new cases.

Some 67,500 people undergo RT-PCR tests daily and several labs are struggling to process that volume, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a briefing at the Palace on Monday evening.

“There are also some labs that have yet to submit their results because some of their staff are isolated or in quarantine due to infection,” Duque said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered DOH to procure more RT-PCR test kits to meet demand, while the FDA has yet to approve self-administered test alternatives.

In related developments, the World Health Organization’s Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition (TAG-Co-VAC) said existing vaccines were less effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease in people who have contracted the new Omicron variant.

But the same preliminary data also showed that protection against serious illness, which the jabs were particularly intended for, “is more likely to be preserved.”

WHO experts have warned that repeating booster doses of the original COVID-19 vaccines was not a viable strategy against emerging variants and called for new vaccines that better protect against transmission.

An expert group established by the World Health Organization to assess the performance of COVID-19 vaccines said simply providing new, existing vaccines as new variants emerge was not the best way to fight against the pandemic.

In a statement, TAG-Co-VAC noted that a vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable.

He is also developing vaccines that not only protect people against serious illnesses, but may also better prevent infection and transmission in the first place.

“COVID-19 vaccines that have a high impact on preventing infection and transmission, in addition to preventing serious illness and death, are needed and should be developed,” TAG-Co-VAC said.

Until such vaccines are available, and as the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolves, he said the makeup of current COVID-19 vaccines may need to be updated.

Meanwhile, Malacanang assured the public that vaccines, regardless of brand, and being vaccinated would help protect against severe forms of COVID-19, regardless of its variant.

“Even the highly transmissible Omicron, we are not helpless; we can do something about it. Get vaccinated, any brand so that we can be protected, ”Acting Presidential Spokesman Karlo Nograles said.

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