Binay cites hazards of COVID-19 vaccine scraps, calls for safe waste disposal plan

Published March 3, 2021, 12:30 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Nancy Binay on Wednesday urged the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and local government units (LGUs) to immediately come up with a comprehensive medical waste disposal plan now that the COVID-19 vaccination program has begun.

Senator Nancy Binay (Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Binay said it is imperative to ensure that medical wastes would be disposed of properly in order to prevent harmful health risks, noting that while the Department of Health (DOH) has already provided “interim guidelines” for vaccine waste disposal, this might not be enough “because this isn’t a temporary problem.” “We’re dealing with infectious medical wastes here magnified in millions of used vials… yung basta na lang itatapon sa basurahan, kukunin ng truck ng basura at itatambak kung saan (the fact they can just throw it in the garbage bin, and collected by garbage trucks and would be left in some place) elevates public health risks,” Binay warned in a statement.

What is worrying, she said, is the capacity and capability of LGUs, especially from geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, to approach and tackle medical wastes concerns.

“I’m worried about the LGUs. Does everyone have a local vaccination plan and comprehensive medical waste disposal plan? Are our LGUs ready to come up with one once they start rolling out the vaccination program?” she pointed out.

“Without a local vaccination plan, these concerns could get out of hand, and we should be anticipatory rather than reactive regarding what threatens to be an environmental and public health hazard,” Binay said.

She noted that the way infectious healthcare waste is being processed and handled at a snail’s pace since the pandemic started has been alarming.

Binay has filed Senate Resolution No. 656 urging the IATF, in consultation with relevant stakeholders in the public and private sectors, to come up with a concrete plan on the proper handling and management of COVID-19 vaccination medical wastes in order to prevent harmful health risks.

“Whereas, based on the Philippine National Development and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccines (Interim Plan, January 2021), waste generated at the health care facilities after vaccination may pose harm and risks to the health care workers and communities if not properly managed,” she said in the explanatory note of her resolution.

In her resolution, Binay further emphasized that proper planning and implementation of managing wastes generated in the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination is required, considering the complexity of the nature of the vaccines.

She noted that the cause of delay is due to the lack of capacity that waste treatment and disposal facilities have.

“And partly because waste haulers need permits so the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) can keep track of where hospital wastes go,” Binay said.

She reiterated the Philippines cannot afford to play catch-up, especially as the plan to vaccinate around 60 to 70 million Filipinos would generate massive amounts of waste.

“Our appeal then is for the IATF to make it part of the checklist for LGUs their comprehensive local vaccination plan and infectious medical/healthcare waste plan,” she said.

“In a span of two to five years, we expect more than 70 million Filipinos to get vaccinated, because these are double-doses and that would mean over 140 million units for the vaccine paraphernalia alone. We haven’t counted how much tons of concomitant waste would be there,” she said.

“I really hope that the IATF and LGUs are prepared once the vaccines start arriving. I hope the IATF would be serious on this too and not to forget it,” she added.