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Duque at house hearing: âHospital capacity still critical; vaccine efficacy uncertain
Addressing the virtual hearing of the House committee on North Luzon Quadrangle on the current status of the pandemic, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also revealed that the duration of efficacy of coronavirus vaccines is still uncertain.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, file

Duque at house hearing: ‘Hospital capacity still critical; vaccine efficacy uncertain

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The bed capacity in hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR) remains at a critical level as the surge in COVID-19 cases continues, the Department of Health (DOH) reported to Congress yesterday.

Addressing the virtual hearing of the House committee on North Luzon Quadrangle on the current status of the pandemic, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also revealed that the duration of efficacy of coronavirus vaccines is still uncertain.

Duque told lawmakers that six cities in NCR have reached 100 percent or full occupancy of intensive care units (ICU) in their respective hospitals.

This, he explained, is why many patients brought to hospital have been waiting in ambulances or makeshift emergency tents before being admitted.

“There are queues in hospitals especially among severe and critical cases,” Duque said as he stopped short of identifying the six cities in which hospitals have reached full capacity.

Upon questioning by Batanes Rep. Ciriaco Gato Jr., Duque admitted that many hospitals reached 100 percent capacity because they admit even asymptomatic patients.

Gato was questioning Duque on why the DOH declared ICU bed capacity in NCR at 70 to 76 percent when many patients have reportedly been awaiting admission for hours.

Lawmakers cited reports of patients dying outside hospitals because they weren’t admitted due to lack of available beds.

Vaccine efficacy

At the same hearing, the DOH chief admitted that the efficacy over time of the COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out by the government is uncertain.

“For now, there is no sufficient data yet (on how long the Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines can provide protection) because these are new vaccines,” he said.

Duque said vaccine manufacturers are in constant cooperation with their research scientists to monitor the antibody protection level for each of the developed jabs.

“We keep our ears to the ground to make sure whether there is a new report or new data to support it and when these vaccines we are now using might actually provide more lasting protection beyond six months. In general, around six months to nine months supposedly,” he added.

Probe on death

Meanwhile, a team will be created by the DOH to investigate the death of a COVID-19 patient while in hotel isolation in Nasugbu, Batangas last month.

Dr. Ed Janairo, DOH regional director for Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), said they want to know what the patient went through while in isolation in the hotel, along with his wife and four children.

“We have to know the major cause of death and if there was something (in our protocols) that was not done. We want to know if there were lapses and where,” he told The STAR.

Janairo said the hotel is part of the Oplan Kalinga program of the government which oversees the arrival and isolation of returning overseas Filipino workers.

GMA7 reported that the family was taken to the facility on March 4 after testing positive for COVID-19.

However, when the husband’s coughing worsened, no medical staff allegedly came to check on him.

On the night of March 11, the patient experienced difficulty in breathing and died the following day.

“It’s very unfortunate to hear about it. We will look into this,” said Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega.

Janairo said he was told that a doctor had checked on the patient through telemedicine.

Still, a probe will be conducted and coordinated with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Department of Transportation and Bureau of Quarantine.

“The patient should have been monitored. They (medical staff) have to dispatch this patient to higher level (of care) if needed,” Vega, treatment czar, said. – Sheila Crisostomo

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