Fewer kids getting polio shots, says DOH
The Department of Health (DOH) has reminded parents to complete the vaccination of their children, particularly against poliovirus, as the Philippines is in danger of losing its 19-year-old polio-free status due to the recent drop in oral polio vaccine (OPV) coverage.
“Complete vaccination is the best preventive measure against polio. All children under 1 year old should complete their three doses of OPV and one dose of the inactivated polio vaccine,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement.
Polio is a fatal and disabling disease caused by poliovirus, which is transmitted when there is poor environmental sanitation and hygiene.
The Philippines has been declared polio-free since October 2000. It is, however, currently at high risk for poliovirus transmission, Duque said.
Open defecation persists
Over the past few years, vaccination coverage for the third dose of OPV has fallen below 95 percent, the target required to ensure population protection against polio, according to the health secretary.
He noted that the surveillance for the acute flaccid paralysis had been consistently poor and the practice of open defecation and poor sanitation had persisted in communities.
The Philippines is also at risk of infection with poliovirus from neighboring countries where it was recently found to have recirculated.
“Unless we act quickly in putting our surveillance on alert to detect signs of poliovirus transmission, in strengthening our immunization program, and in improving environmental hygiene and sanitation, we risk losing our polio-free status,” Duque said.
“[M]ost importantly, we risk the health and future of our children due to a disease [that] otherwise could have been prevented,” he said.
The DOH has identified priority regions that need to strengthen preventive measures against polio.
Zero Open Defecation
It has planned measures to enhance polio prevention in Metro Manila, including intensified surveillance of children below 5 years old who developed sudden onset of muscle weakness or paralysis of the upper and lower limbs, and a polio immunization campaign for all children under 5 years old.
The department also called on all local governments to intensify the implementation of the Zero Open Defecation program and to strengthen the call for environmental sanitation and personal hygiene, such as frequent hand washing.
It reiterated its advisory that Manila Bay remained unsafe for swimming.
The synchronized polio immunization is expected to start in Manila by mid-August. It will expand to the entire metropolis and eventually to other priority regions. —Tina G. Santos
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