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 already been submitted to Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
“Matagal na po nating nirekomenda 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,” Go said.
“Malaking ginhawa po ito sa ating mga kababayan dahil hindi lamang po ito mas mura, accurate din po ito at mas ligtas,” he added.
As the chair of Senate committee on health, Senator Bong Go presided over the Senate hearing last October 19, 2020, and asked the DOH, if possible, to adopt the saliva-based COVID-19 testing in the country. According to him, the test would be much cheaper, faster, and safer and which will significantly help revive the tourism industry.
“Baka makatulong itong saliva-based testing to restart our tourism industry which was severely affected by this pandemic,” he said previously.
At that time, Duque III said that 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.
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 conducting saliva tests on Monday, 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 P1,500 to P2,000, cheaper than RT-PCR test which costs around P3,800 to P5,000. 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% 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 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 ongoing pandemic.
“Dapat po natin tutukan ito at panatilihing abot-kaya ang testing sa bansa. Crucial ito sa ating hangarin na ma-test, ma-trace, at mabigyan ng tamang treatment ang mga kaso ng COVID-19,” he emphasized.
“Palagi rin nating unahin ang kapakanan at buhay ng mga mahihirap at pinaka-nangangailangan ng tulong. Huwag natin sila pabayaan dahil sila ang kailangang makabalik sa normal na pamumuhay upang maiangat ang kabuhayan nila,” he added.
Amid the emergence of new variants of COVID-19 in the country, with three cases being minors, Go appealed to authorities to strengthen the implementation of 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,” Go said in a statement.