DOH to pilot test antigen testing in Baguio City

The Department of Health (DOH) is eyeing to complete a pilot test on the use of antigen tests in Baguio City to assess whether or not the new diagnostic tool can be adopted for official use.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Monday, September 21, that the DOH proposed the pilot test to the government’s coronavirus task force so they could study the performance of antigen tests in screening for COVID-19. 

Vergeire said the recommendation was given after the World Health Organization announced the tests may be used under certain conditions, such as when no reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests are available, if an outbreak is declared, or if in a congregate setting. The WHO advised against its use as a screening tool at borders. 

“When we presented this to the IATF, we proposed that as the WHO gave these recommendations and the diagnostic performance of antigen tests in the market don’t all reach the 80% (sensitivity) needed, we can try to study if this can be used and will deliver accurate results through a pilot study,” Vergeire said in Filipino. 

Why Baguio?

Vergeire said the DOH proposed the study should take place in Baguio City as it had an efficient contact tracing system, model governance and management for COVID-19, and “political commitment” under Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong.

Magalong, DOH officials, and experts held a meeting on the matter on Monday morning, Vergeire said, adding details on an agreement will be finalized and presented to the Inter-Agency Task force for approval. 

Once approved, Vergeire said details on when the pilot study will be carried out, among others, will be announced.

What are antigen tests?

Antigen tests are another type of test that is used to determine current or active infections among patients.

Like reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests, antigen tests use swab samples collected to test for COVID-19. 

The main advantage of antigen tests are its faster turnaround time and cheaper cost. Unlike RT-PCR tests that can take up to 3 days to process, results from antigen tests take about an hour until they can be released. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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