PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

SIX congressmen have filed a resolution urging the government to provide booster shots to protect Filipinos from a more contagious Delta coronavirus variant.

The lawmakers led by Taguig Rep. Alan Peter S. Cayetano urged an inter-agency task force to provide the shots to frontline health workers and patients whose immune system have been compromised.

The booster shots are a “moral imperative and a practical necessity to prevent the collapse of our healthcare system,” according to a copy of the resolution.

The congressmen noted that countries such as Indonesia and Thailand have started giving a third shot to vulnerable residents.

A total of 39.14 million doses have been given out, with 22.06 million Filipinos getting their first dose, while 17.08 million have been fully vaccinated as of Sept. 13, according to the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has affected government response to the country’s already dismal tuberculosis (TB) crisis, health authorities told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

TB tests last year fell to 556,000 from 1 million a year earlier and 1.16 million in 2018, Health Undersecretary Mario C. Villaverde said.

TB patients have not gone to hospitals for consultation for fear of being infected with the COVID-19 virus, he said. A number of health workers had also been assigned coronavirus patients.

Mr. Villaverde said the Health department had come up with a TB program to work around the COVID-19 crisis and make it sustainable.

Among the strategies are improved screening and contact tracing, a flexible treatment management and telemedicine.

“While we battle this pandemic, we should not lose sight of other diseases,” said Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go, who heads the health committee. “They are also plaguing the country.”

The Philippines had the highest TB incidence rate in Asia last year, with 554 cases for 100,000 Filipinos, according to the World Health Organization. — Russell Louis C. Ku and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan