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Fighting COVID-19: ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel’

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 24, 2021 6:00 am

Amid the gloom and doom that seemingly engulf us — scared and weary as we are because of the number of COVID-19 cases reported daily — we need not despair.

“There is always light at the end of the tunnel, that is my belief,” says Dr. Arturo S. De La Peña, St. Luke’s Medical Center president and CEO, adding, “whether the magic bullet is vaccination or that medicines that will kill the virus will be developed.”

De La Peña revealed in a Zoom interview with this writer andPeopleAsiamagazine that there is a new treatment “to prevent the progression of the disease” coming very soon. This consists of “synthetic” antibodies or antibodies that have been “synthesized.” The treatment is also expected to be “pricey,” but the hospital chief adds, “Life has no price.”

Of course, no vaccine or cure works 100 percent of the time on 100 percent of the patients, but De La Peña’s revelation makes today’s situation bearable, even if many believe that like the flu, COVID-19 is here to stay.

St. Luke’s Medical Center president and CEO Dr. Arturo De La Peña. (Photo by Mark Ches Ang courtesy of PeopleAsia)

“Vaccination is the key,” stresses De La Peña, who himself got COVID during the early months of the pandemic, and who hopes that 60%of the population will be fully vaccinated by December.

To walk his talk, De La Peña is offering to government the services of St. Luke’s doctors to go to places where people need vaccination but do not have the means or mobility to get jabbed.

His best everyday advice to all those who want to be spared of the disease? “Take care of yourself.”

LawyerPilar Nenuca Almira, president and CEO of the Makati Medical Center, also believes that vaccination is the best way out of the pandemic. “Vaccination that has so far been undertaken has helped in preventingthe spread of the virus,” she stresses.

Makati Medical Center president and CEO lawyer Pilar Almira. (Photo by Mau Aguasin courtesy of PeopleAsia)

“I would suppose this is the same observation in the industry,” the lady executive avers.

“Vaccination really helped a lot. Severe cases are significantly lower, as well as death cases. Many of those who went into severe and critical conditions were unvaccinated. This is what we experienced in our hospital. This is the reason why we continue to campaign for vaccination. We partnered with the Makati City LGU to be able to do this. We also support the vaccination initiatives and programs of other companies in the MPIC Group. Vaccination is our advocacy. We want to help the government, too, in this thrust,” she says.

The past is a good teacher for the medical community.

Vaccination has helped in preventing the spread of the virus. (AFP photo)

“We continue to learn from our experience,” says the MMC chief.

“Protocols are continually reviewed for improvements. Communication on the observance of protocols is tighter. We seriously implement social distancing, wearing of masks and shields, wearing of PPEs where warranted and enforcing washing of hands and using alcoholfor hand hygiene. Our Infection Control team continues to monitor all ourCOVIDcases to learn fromthe experience and be guided more. As a result, we have lesshealthcareprofessionals getting infected.”

Clinical data from the Makati Medical Center shared by Almira shows that among unvaccinated COVID-19 patients admitted in the hospital, 74 percent had severe or critical illness, while among vaccinated patients, 53 percent had severe cases.

From June 1 to Aug. 6, 2021, of the 358 COVID-19 patients admitted, 77 percent were unvaccinated.

At the state-run Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the August surge is the worst so far “in terms of numbers of patients being admitted to the Philippine General Hospital.”

“We have reached 277 admitted patients at any one time, which is a record — the previous record was 249. We are also seeing more pregnant women and children needing admissions as a reflection of the increase in the number of cases in the community,” reveals PGH spokesman Dr.Jonas Del Rosario.

Philippine General Hospital spokesperson Dr. Jonas del Rosario

Preparedness is saving the day for PGH, the only national referral center for tertiary care, providing direct and quality patient services to thousands of indigent Filipinos all over the country.

“The health workforce is better prepared this time since majority of the frontliners are fully vaccinated, which offers protection from severe disease, and is more experienced in handling patients. There is less of a guessing game as we have more solid evidence on the treatment guidelines that we use specifically the medicines that are being given.”

According to Del Rosario, “We have seen that the majority of the patients with severe and critical COVID-19 disease are NOT vaccinated. Currently, 10 out of 12 patients intubated are unvaccinated. On the contrary, we have seen most of our fully vaccinated healthcare workers who had breakthrough infections only develop mild symptoms. None of them had been critically ill.”

“Since there are still a lot of unvaccinated people in the community, we still see the same number of severe cases in the hospital,” he adds.

“The virus is here to stay,” Del Rosario concedes. “We have to learn to live with it by being mindful of what we know works — wearing of masks, handwashing, and maintaining physical distancing. Avoid poorly ventilated crowded places. Avoid eating together for now. Isolate oneself right away when having flu-like symptoms and get tested with RT-PCR when symptomatic. Get vaccinated as soon as possible. It will protect you, your family and community. Let’s take care of each other and slow down the transmission by doing our part.”