The government should not only focus on the vaccines for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) but also the medications for treating it, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said as he echoed calls from concerned doctors.
During their plenary debates on the proposed “COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act” on Monday, February 22, Sotto relayed to senators and Cabinet officials the call of the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC-PH) for the government to also work on the early treatment and cure for COVID-19.
The CDC-PH, a group led by former Health secretary Jaime Galvez-Tan, has been calling for the adoption of a national protocol for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 as an alternative to the imposition of community quarantines.
“We all know by now…that there has been in the delay in the procurement of vaccines. As of today, negotiations are still ongoing. Also, some pharmaceutical companies are experiencing challenges in their production and logistics. To be very blunt about it, somehow, there is nothing definite yet as of the moment,” Sotto said in his interpellation on Senate Bill No. 2057 sponsored by Sen. Sonny Angara.
“It is for the government to focus on the treatment for COVID-19. Treatment and cure,” he stressed. “While we are waiting for the vaccines, a lot of people are being infected and dying.”
Quoting the doctors, Sotto said the early treatment of COVID-19 “is better that controlling the spread of the virus, as well as in preventing hospitalization.”
He added that this will also aid in reopening the Philippines’ economy, like other countries that have managed to control the outbreak and resumed activities prior to the vaccination of their population.
He also said that investing on medications could also help in addressing and treating adverse reactions from the vaccines.
“If you want to open the economy, you must concentrate on treatment and cure, and not wait for the vaccine. There are so many endorsed medication that I hope the Department of Health (DOH) will look into,” Sotto appealed.
“Because we have to be very honest about it — Sec. [Francisco] Duque is very forthright about this thing — even if you are vaccinated, you are already immunized, it does not guarantee that you will not get the virus. You will still get the virus if you are not careful, so bagsak din sa (it will still end up in) treatment and cure,” he said.
Duque was in the Senate plenary to assist Angara in the debates on the SB No. 2057, which seeks to expedite the country’s procurement of COVID-19 vaccines through the local government units.
Angara agreed with Sotto, saying “that other countries have been able to reopen their economies because they focus on treatment and cure.”
“And perhaps, we have somewhat been reliant on the hopes brought by the vaccines,” he conceded.
He said that according to Duque, doctors currently prescribe two medications for COVID-19 patients: Avigan, generically known as fapiravir, for mild cases; and Remdesivir for hospitalized patients in more serious cases.
Both are anti-viral drugs used for treating influenza and the Ebola virus, respectively. But their efficacy in curing and reducing mortalities due to COVID-19 remain unproven, recent reports said.
Sotto said the government could proceed with its negotiations for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, but should not forget the treatment of infected patients.
“Consult these doctors, because I think this is the answer, and this is being done by other countries already and they are successful,” he told the authorities.