Put more health experts in COVID-19 response groups – OCTA fellow
MANILA, Philippines — There should be more health experts included in the groups set up to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies, OCTA Research fellow Ranjit Rye said on Tuesday at the weekly Pandesal Forum organized by the Kamuning Bakery Cafe.
Rye, an assistant professor of political science, also urged the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to take steps to avoid the “big problem” of his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, whose governance was “not transparent, and a lot of groups were left out of the loop.”
He suggested the establishment of a scientific advisory group for emergencies – SAGE —similar to that employed in the United Kingdom. A SAGE, which includes experts and specialists from various fields in healthcare and academe, is set up to give scientific advice to back government decisions.
“Unless we have an exit plan, this is the challenge for the administration,” he said. “I think we should agree to streamline the [Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases] and its functions. But what we’re suggesting is to expand the science advice… In the end, all of this will require moving from ad hoc [groups] to institutions.”
Having a SAGE could serve as an indicator of the new administration’s commitment to a transparent COVID-19 response, Rye added.
“We should have some version of SAGE institutionalized… We need to build institutions, yes. And part of this is strengthening science advice for governance,” he added.
‘Health brings wealth’
Rye stressed the need to step up the COVID-19 vaccination and booster shots campaign in the Philippines, noting how it could also reap economic gains.
“It’s not just a health intervention booster. It’s actually an economic intervention,” he said. “We can sustain an open economy for a longer period of time. And that’s one easy way to get out of this economic situation we’re in and move towards an upward trajectory.”
Earlier, Joey Concepcion, a business leader and former presidential advisor for entrepreneurship, appealed to the Health Technology Assessment Council to expand the scope of those allowed to get a second COVID-19 booster shot.
Currently, only healthcare workers, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals are green-lighted to receive the booster shots.
Concepcion made this recommendation after revealing that around 1.6 million COVID-19 vaccines bought by the private sector would expire in August.
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