The men and women of science supporting the Philippine pandemic response
On April 29, 2022, the Department of Health (DOH) held a recognition program for the DOH All Health Experts with the theme: “Looking Back, Marching Forward: DOH All Health Experts Convening from Covid-19 to UHC.” This program was held to give appreciation to the many scientific experts who guided the DOH, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, and the Philippine government in the successful pandemic response over the last two years.
The program featured a speech by the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai, who commended the Philippines for its rigorous science-based approach. He also highlighted how the Philippine government was one of their models in the region for its innovative response of rapidly adopting the latest scientific findings into policy. For instance, the early decision to deploy boosters at three months from the second dose was seen as an integral strategy in tempering the BA.2 wave in January 2022.
Compared to many countries with vast resources and robust healthcare systems, the Philippines has done quite well in managing Covid-19 cases in the country. The approximately 60,000 Covid-19 Filipino deaths over the course of over two years are tragic, but are nowhere near the more than 1,000,000 Americans who have died in the US. Cases have remained flat since the January 2022 Omicron wave, even as the country has quickly reopened its economy. A large part of this success is due to the continued scientific guidance from the health experts, which underpins government policies.
From the very start of the pandemic, the DOH and the IATF have relied on scientific advisers to guide their outbreak response. These scientific advisers make up the All Experts Group. Within the All Experts Group are several groups, committees, and subcommittees that specialize in different aspects of the pandemic. These include the Technical Advisory Group (TAG), the Covid-19 Laboratory Experts Panel (CLEP), the IATF Taskforce for Covid