By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Nancy Binay expressed her concern on the government’s plan to use rapid antigen test kits in an effort to ramp up coronavirus testing in the country
According to Binay, the use of antigen tests is a “hit-and-miss testing strategy” and that the money spent in procuring these tests would be better spent on more reliable testing methods.
“Antigen testing is a hit-and-miss testing strategy. With dwindling resources, the government must use its money wisely and sparingly,” the senator tweeted.
Binay also warned that using rapid antigen tests can do more harm than good because it is not reliable in detecting asymptomatic COVID-19 cases.
Medical professionals had earlier warned the government that over-reliance on these tests could lull people into a false sense of security.
“Antigen only detects infectiousness, di ang infection. It can only scan high viral loads, pero di sya reliable sa mga asymptomatic. Sa madaling sabi, it can do more harm than good,” Binay pointed out.
She added the use of polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR), dubbed the gold standard in the COVID-19 test, remains the best option.
The government had earlier announced its plan to procure 500,000 antigen test kits that will be used to screen people in the NCR Plus bubble.
The price of an antigen kit ranges between P750 and P1500 per unit depending on the brand. With 500,000 kits to be procured, the government will be spending between P375 million and P750 million for greater-NCR alone.
“I think the IATF and the DOH should seriously consider its testing policies. For one, antigen may not be the better option as far as mass testing or individual testing is concerned dahil maraming instances na false negative ang resulta. The close to a billion peso price tag for a consumable quick fix testing ay sayang lang, na sana ay ipatayo na lang ng mga RT-PCR centers and facilities,” Binay pointed out.
However, Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire of the Department of Health said that based on WHO (World Health Organization) recommendation, antigen test can be used as a confirmatory test in areas where there are outbreaks or areas where there is a high number of cases.
“We understand the convenience and the shorter waiting time, but I don’t think it’s a wise and practical move to spend close to a billion pesos on antigen kits, dahil may dagdag na gastos pa rin ang gobyerno. Di nahahagip ng antigen yung mga asymptomatic. So, kung taga-probinsya ka, at nagpa-antigen ka na, kailangan mo pa ring magpa-PCR para uli sa confirmatory test,” she said, adding, “baka pwedeng mas dagdagan ng gobyerno yung suporta for more Red Cross ‘saliva testing’ in key areas para mas mapabilis din ang resulta.”
Currently, only those who tested positive through RT-PCR tests are considered as confirmed COVID-19 cases. (AI/MTVN)