The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) on Monday launched the Covid-19 RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test using saliva after the Department of Health (DOH) approved it over the weekend.
In his speech during the launch, PRC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Senator Richard Gordon said the use of saliva for testing is a cheaper and faster method that would allow the government to save millions in Covid-19 testing.
“The Philippine Red Cross has always been an active auxiliary partner of government, hindi siya (it’s not) government. And we are certainly following the fundamental principles that includes that we are independent and that we will also vow to alleviate human suffering and uplift human dignity. Today represents a milestone in the sense that we are democratizing the testing, binaba natin ang presyo, gumawa tayo ng sistema. Nagsama ang galing ng mga Pilipino sa paggawa nito (we lowered the price, we created a system. The ingenuity of Filipinos surfaced in the development of this test),” Gordon said.
The Covid-19 saliva testing costs PHP2,000, which is PHP1,800 cheaper than nasopharyngeal swab testing.
Gordon explained individuals who want to undergo Covid-19 saliva testing should not eat, gargle or smoke at least half an hour before the test.
“Dito tayo dudura, isasara, dapat may cellphone bago kayo dumating dito, isusulat na ninyo ang inyong (You’ll spit here, this will be sealed, you should have a cellphone, before you get here, you need to fill out your CIF (client information form),” he said.
The processing time of saliva testing is shorter than the swab testing because it only has three to four hours turnaround time.
“The Philippine Red Cross is not a spectator. It is a diligent worker towards alleviating human suffering kaya ngayong mga panahon na ito, naghahanap kami ng paraan kung paano mapapawi ang kahirapan ng ating mga kababayan, hindi lang sa pera, sa paghahanap-buhay, sa mga ospital na nadadarang sa dami ng mga nagpupunta, ngunit lalo na sa ating mga kababyan natin na talagang hindi na makayanan ang sakit, ‘yung iba namamatay na lang. Ito ay talagang commitment namin sa (that’s why in times lke this, we are looing for ways to lessen the burden of our people, not only in money, in finding livelihood, crowded hospitals, but especially our countrymen who cannot endure anymore the pain, some died already. It is our commitment in) Philippine Red Cross,” Gordon said.
Gordon said those who will undergo Covid-19 saliva testing will have to spit inside a sterile one-milliliter vial with the use of a funnel which will be sealed and documented for results.
He added that those who are interested to book a Covid-19 saliva testing with the PRC can do so online.
National Task Force Against Covid-19 adviser Ted Herbosa said the saliva testing is still a PCR test and the methodology of the test but only the singular sampling method.
Herboza said he hopes that the saliva testing will be available in all Covid-19 testing laboratories and not just at the PRC because it has many advantages compared to the swab testing.
“It’s faster if I have a room full of people, say about a hundred of people I need to test, everybody could just spit all at the same time and so I can collect in a shorter period of time than line up all those people with swabbers,” he noted.
Certain groups and entities could also use saliva testing for disease surveillance apart from disease detection.
“Like if DepEd, CHED [Commission on Higher Education], want to have face-to-face lessons, we’ll be able to protect that group to be able to continue face-to-face (classes) very quickly. And for example, PRC examinations like medicine, engineering, and even law, this saliva testing can be done for the board examinees,” he added
The front-liners who need to be tested regularly — the police, military, health care workers, social care workers, workers in government offices — because they are exposed to the public would benefit from the saliva testing.
Herbosa added that it could also be useful for the regular testing of huge industries which include the factory workers and people who work in the malls.
National Action Plan Against Covid-19 Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon said the study on the use of saliva as a specimen for Covid-19 testing has been discussed since September last year.
“We are thankful that we can now use this technology to expand our testing capacity, allow more of our men and women to get tested, and also tremendously reduce the cost of testing,” Dizon said.
For his part, DOH Assistant Secretary Elmer Punzalan said the Covid-19 saliva testing is a game-changer in the country’s fight against Covid-19 because “it is cheaper, its process is easy to perform and the results are released in a short time”.
“Especially if this will be available all over the country. So again, my congratulations to Senator Richard Gordon, former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial and the whole Philippine Red Cross,” Punzalan added. (PNA)