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DOH expands detection of vax-preventable diseases with 7 new labs

Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (PNA photo by Joey Razon)

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) is establishing seven subnational laboratories (SNLs) for the detection of vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) in the Philippines.

In a news release Thursday, the DOH said the SNLs, located in various regions of the country, lay the foundation of a public health laboratory network for the timely confirmation of infectious diseases and a more efficient response to outbreaks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has provided over PHP36 million worth of laboratory equipment and supplies.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III received the donations in a turnover ceremony Thursday at the DOH.

The laboratories will serve as confirmatory testing hubs for common vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, rubella, rotavirus disease, and Japanese encephalitis.

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) has assessed and identified the following regional health facilities as SNLs: Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center, Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital, Western Visayas Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Medical Center, Zamboanga Medical Center, Southern Philippines Medical Center, and Cotabato Regional and Medical Center.

“With fluctuating vaccination coverage rates in the last decade, the Philippines, particularly Filipino children, remain at risk for vaccine preventable diseases. This initiative not only gives better tools to care for individual patients, but it also helps to respond more strategically to protect communities,” Duque said.

The establishment of the SNLs expands RITM’s role from being the sole laboratory for the detection and confirmation of VPDs in the country to leading a national public health laboratory network.

“With the establishment of these SNLs, we strengthen the laboratory capacity for the detection and confirmation of VPDs. An extensive laboratory network is crucial in confirming early possible outbreaks and allows us to prioritize immediate public health actions,” RITM Director Dr. Celia Carlos said.

In the coming months, RITM will set up up essential equipment and train staff at the SNLs. It will also establish quality control and assurance measures in preparation for WHO laboratory accreditation. The laboratories are expected to independently perform confirmatory testing within the year.

RITM is the country’s WHO-accredited national reference laboratory for rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis virus, measles and rubella virus. (PR)

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