Why so important to dispose COVID-19 medical wastes properly? – Senator Binay

Let me take a moment to print the full statement of Senator Ma. Lourdes “Nancy” S. Binay on being considered to run for higher office by 1Sambayan Coalition:

“I am thankful to the convenors of 1Sambayan for including my name in the list of those being considered to run for the two highest offices in government. I recognize the special significance of building a coalition that would articulate the voices of many Filipinos who long for a better governance and more stable future as the world continues the fight against an invisible enemy.

We know that we continue to tread a difficult road, and we need someone who can unite us far greater than divide us. Someone who can inspire hope in the midst of all the adversities. Being elected into office for the second time, it is more than enough blessing for me–a mother and a housewife who started as an intern–to be given the extraordinary privilege to serve.

But I want to end all speculations. I am not running for higher office. Many may not know–opposite to the lure of public office–politics is always brutal on the family than on the politician. Sadly, that has always been true to us. As a mother of four, I cannot subject my family again to the ugly brand of politics, the injustices, the sustained attacks, the lies, and how it stained and wounded us. I don’t want my family to be transported back to the grim era when we were demonized na parang kami na yata ang pinakamasamang nilalang sa buong universe. Indeed, goodness of heart is deeper than the eyes can see.

Like any Filipino, it is also my wish to see a better Philippines. I believe that our leaders must have a clean track record; have an upright stand on difficult and uncomfortable issues; have clear-cut plans in addressing the country’s problems; and must have a strong moral compass. For now, I will remain as your Senator, your public servant, and be the voice for those who can’t speak.”

Senator Binay urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, 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.

The Philippines has been responding to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and has been implementing numerous interventions since March 2020 when the World Health Organization declared it as a public health emergency of international concern. However, Senator Binay said it appears that the surge in infectious medical wastes brought about by COVID-19 is not given much attention. As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, medical facilities are also seeing a surge in the volume of infectious medical wastes they produce. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), hospitals, healthcare facilities and individuals are producing more waste than usual, including masks, gloves, gowns and other protective equipment that could be infected with the virus, when not managed soundly, infected medical waste could be subject to uncontrolled dumping, leading to public health risks, and to open burning or uncontrolled incineration, leading to the release of toxins in the environment and to secondary transmission of diseases to humans. Other wastes can reach water sources and add to river and marine pollution.

For this reason, proper and swift disposal is a must.In April 2020, the Asian Development Bank estimated that hospitals in Metro Manila—the region that accounts for at least 55% of the nation’s cases— would generate 280 metric tons of medical waste in a single day. Data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed that the country has so far generated 19,187.7 metric tons of infectious healthcare waste from April to July. The figure, which refers to the waste service providers intend to transport and treat, was based on the special permit to transport submitted by treaters. Of the said figure, only 29% has 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 capacity that waste treatment and disposal facilities have and partly because waste haulers need permits so the DENR can keep track of where hospital waste goes. Medical waste in the country is typically disinfected through steam sterilization, also called autoclave, which subjects the waste to intense heat and pressure to kill pathogens—prior to disposal in a landfill. Autoclaves can process between 100 kilograms to as much as 3,000 kilograms per cycle.

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. Thus, Senator Binay emphasized that 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.

According to vaccine czar, Carlito Galvez Jr., the country received the initial vaccine last February. A total of 5.6 million doses produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca are expected to be delivered through the COVAX facility and as such, the government aims to vaccinate around 60 million to 70 million of its citizens in 3 to 5 years, projecting to immunize 200,000 Filipinos every day. There might be no evidence that unprotected human contact during the handling of health care wastes has resulted in the transmission of the COVID-19 disease, it is much safer that the country’s handling and management of COVID-19 vaccination medical wastes is pro-active. The proper handling and management of COVID-19 vaccination medical wastes in far-flung areas or geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas must also be considered and included in the government’s overall plan.