Disease-control funding

April 29, 2020

Of course, safeguarding health and saving lives carry a price tag.

There is always a public cost to promoting the general welfare of the people.

Th good news is: The government is always flush with cash. Money is its own lifeblood.

The people who pay their taxes are endlessly supplying the money for its operations, programs and projects, and vital social services.

Th question is: Is the government making the right social investments in the face of multiple and simultaneous threats to public health?

The 2019 coronavirus diseases pandemic is testing  massive public outlaythe soundness of these  massive public outlay.        

And we are inclined to fully agree with and strongly support the concerns of a very discerning lady lawmaker in raising this point.

As the Covid-19 leaves nations unprepared and scrambling for solutions, Sen. Grace Poe said that investments to build and enhance the country's expertise in disease prevention and control have become imperative.

"We need to catalyze support for a proactive and efficient health system with increased capacities to prevent and control the spread of new or recurring infectious diseases," Poe said.

Covid-19 has so far infected three million people across the globe, killing over 209,000.

Not only health, but all sectors are left with no choice but to adapt to the new norm, implementing the necessary adjustments for survival.

"We need to restrategize, restructure and reinvent our systems if we are to stay afloat and cope with the scourge and disruption brought about by COVID-19, including the threat of new diseases," Poe said.

In support of a holistic approach to manage public health risks, she  has filed Senate Bill 1450 or the "Pandemic Preparedness and Response Act" that seeks to establish a Center for Disease Control  to strategize and lead in communicable disease control and prevention and fortify the country's preparedness and response to public health crises.

"As the adage aptly puts it, 'An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,' and of course, much better than having to contend with huge socio-economic losses," she said.

Under the bill, the CDC “shall spearhead the formulation of a national strategy to anticipate and address public health emergencies and provide proper direction on such health threats”.

The center is also envisioned to provide consultation and assistance to other nations and international agencies to collaborate and partner in improving the effectiveness of disease prevention and control mechanisms.

"We need to strengthen our preparedness and become far more equipped in the face of continuing health risks. We all have a stake in this," Poe said.

Her bill draws inspiration from the measure filed in 2013 by the late Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who fought courageously against the cancer disease that has also claimed the lives of many in the country.

Meanwhile, Sen. Nancy Binay called on local government units to continue offering immunization services against measles and polio even as the nation continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Huwag naman sanang maging dahilan ang lockdown sa di pagkakaroon ng panahon para mailigtas ang mas maraming kabataan mula tigdas at polio. Aside from our fight against Covid-19, we should also continue our fight against vaccine-preventable diseases," Binay pointed out.

The lady lawmaker  cautioned that children in some regions and still covid-free areas may miss out life-saving vaccines just because the government is centrally focused on fighting the Ccovid-19 pandemic.

"Mahirap ang sitwasyon sa ngayon. Kailangan muna nating isantabi ang ibang public health concerns dahil meron kang hinaharap na giyera sa Covid. We understand the demands of the times, and we know that the DoH and local health workers are further thinned by the day, but we cannot allow the vulnerable population be victims of an immunization standstill. May panahon pa," Binay noted.

She said that while disruptions in immunization services are likely to occur, LGUs can study the guidelines released by the World Health Organization on how to protect critical immunization services during the pandemic.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, polio and measles cases in the country were already on the rise.

The suspension of vaccination for the disease due to the current pandemic is fueling fears among experts polio cases could rise. The UNICEF said about 2 million Filipino children may miss out vaccinations due to the current lockdown.

According to the Department of Health's Measles and Rubella Surveillance Report, from 1 January to 22 November 2019, there have been 43,214 measles cases reported, with 570 deaths. In the whole year of 2018, there were 21,812 measles cases reported with 202 deaths.

World Immunization Week is celebrated in the last week of April (24 to 30 April) and aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.