Some doctors score DOH adviser over remark on pandemic being done on an ‘individual risk level’

September 6, 2021 - 4:30 PM
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients sit in beds after being admitted in the chapel of Quezon City General Hospital turned into a COVID-19 ward amid rising infections, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, August 20, 2021. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Edsel Salvaña, who advises the government pandemic task force, claimed that the COVID-19 pandemic is over on “an individual level” despite recording over 20,000 COVID-19 cases for the fourth straight day.

Salvana, a member of the health department’s technical advisory group, made that remark on Facebook on September 3. He also attached a table of risk groups who are vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Different ages and risk groups have different risks of dying from COVID-19. All COVID-19 vaccines can lower your risk of dying by 90 to 95% or even higher,” he wrote.

In the table he attached, the risk groups were classified by age, those with comorbidities, and if they were COVID-19 vaccinated or not.

The infectious disease expert also compared the risks of death due to COVID-19 to other health conditions—SARS, community-acquired pneumonia, influenza and common cold.

Those with the highest risk of dying due to the deadly virus are unvaccinated individuals aged 60 years and above and those with comorbidities.

Those in the lower risk groups are younger individuals who are vaccinated and without comorbidities.

In his post, Salvana claimed that the latter have already overcome the pandemic on an “individual” basis.

Kids who have received COVID-19 jabs might also still get infected but as mild as a “common cold,” the doctor further supposed.

“Those of us in the lower risk groups who are vaccinated have mostly transformed COVID-19 into the flu and for us, the pandemic is pretty much over on an individual risk level,” Salvana said.

“Most children are already there (if they have no comorbids), and when they eventually get vaccinated they will see COVID-19 turn into the common cold,” he added.

It should be noted that the word “pandemic” refers to a disease that occurs “over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affecting a significant proportion of the population.”

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a “pandemic” in March 2020 after it had spread to 114 countries at that time.

How health workers reacted

Last September 5, the Department of Health recorded the country’s third straight tally of more than 20,000 new COVID-19 cases.

READ: New normal? Concerns as daily COVID-19 cases reach over 20,000 for 3 straight days

It reported 20,019 new COVID-19 cases which brought up the total confirmed cases to 2,080,984. Of these, 1,889,312 have recovered and 34,234 have already died.

Data analysts stated that this is also the country’s fourth highest daily tally since last year.

On Monday, the DOH reported a new-record high for the Philippines with 22,415 new confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Health workers on social media raised these statistics to criticize Salvana’s post.

“The famous expert said that the ‘pandemic is pretty much over on an individual level’. So we should just sit down and not mind these numbers,” one doctor said.

“There’s no such thing as having the pandemic over on an individual level especially for frontliners,” another doctor wrote.

One user @LopaoMD addressed Salvana’s “flawed” word usage.

“By its very definition, I don’t see how a pandemic can be ‘over on an individual level’. (thinking emoji) As a Community Medicine and (Alma Ata) Primary Health Care practitioner-teacher, I take exception to such a notion because not only is it flawed but also very harmful,” he said.

Other doctors also denounced Salvana for downplaying the worsening situation and spreading misleading information to the public.

Dr. Gene Nisperos, assistant professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, said added that the government should just admit their failures and come up with a better approach.

“We did not contain it. Lockdowns are not the solution. There is a surge. There is no such thing as a pandemic on an individual level. Our pandemic response is not enough,” Nisperos said.