By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Nancy Binay has urged the IATF, local government units and the private sector to come up with a comprehensive medical waste management plan as Covid-19 vaccines begin to roll-out this year to ensure that medical wastes will be disposed of properly.
In a statement, Binay said she filed Senate Resolution No. 656 urging the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, 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,” the resolution stated.
According to Binay, 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. Proper handling, storage, collection, and disposal of the wastes shall be followed to ensure protection of the environment and the general public.
“Mayroon nang interim guidelines ang Department of Health tungkol sa vaccine waste disposal. Pero hindi pwedeng ‘interim guidelines’ lang ang inilalabas natin because this isn’t a temporary problem. What we need is a comprehensive implementable plan. 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, elevates public health risks,” Binay said.
The senator said the capacity and capability of LGUs, especially from geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, should be a primary consideration, as she emphasized the need for a systems approach in tackling the issue.
“I’m worried about the LGUs. Lahat ba mayroon nakalatag na local vaccination plan at comprehensive medical waste disposal plan? Gaano ba ka-ready ang mga LGU once na magsi-rollout na ang mga bakuna? Without a local vax 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.
The senator expressed alarm at the snail’s pace at which infectious healthcare waste is being processed since the pandemic.
Her resolution cited data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources which showed that only 29% of the 19,188 metric tons of Infectious healthcare waste from April to July 2020 has been been treated and disposed of, although the waste has already been pulled out from medical facilities.
“The cause of delay is partly due to the lack of a capacity that waste treatment and disposal facilities have, and partly because waste haulers need permits so the DENR can keep track of where hospital wastes go,” Binay said.
She added that the country cannot afford to play catch-up, especially as they plan to vaccinate around 60 to 70 million Filipinos would generate massive amounts of waste.
“Ang apela natin ay gawing part ng checklist ng IATF na magkaroon ng ‘comprehensive local vaccination plan’ at ‘infectious medical/healthcare waste plan’ ang bawat LGU. In a span of two to five years, we expect more than 70 million Filipinos ang babakunahan. Dahil double-dose, that would mean over 140 million units for the vaccine paraphernalia alone. Hindi pa natin binibilang kung ilang tonelada ang concomitant waste diyan. It’s about readiness. I really hope that the IATF and LGUs are prepared once the vaccines start arriving. Sana seryosohin ng IATF ito, at wag naman ibabaon sa limot,” Binay pointed out. (AI/MTVN)