Philippines resumes polio immunization program amid COVID-19 crisis
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines announced Monday it will resume its vaccination program against polio after it was put on hold due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The vaccination program, named Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio, will start in Mindanao on Monday, July 20, and will last until August 2 for children under five years old.
Children under 10 years old in selected areas in Mindanao will also receive polio drops, the Department of Health (DOH), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said in a joint statement.
New polio immunization campaigns for children under five years old will begin in a phased approach in Central Luzon on Monday and in the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal in Region 4A in August.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III stressed that continuous implementation of polio response will not only prevent the debilitating effects of the disease but will also interrupt the transmission of the highly-infectious poliovirus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is imperative for parents and caregivers to have their children vaccinated, while strictly adhering to infection prevention and control protocols, as we cannot afford to overwhelm our health system with another outbreak,” Duque said.
The re-emergence of the polio outbreak in the Philippines was announced last September 2019, 19 years since it was declared eradicated in the country.
The first known confirmed case of the new polio outbreak came from a three-year-old girl in Lanao del Sur. Since then, 15 more children have been confirmed with polio with ages ranging from below one-year-old to nine years old. The cases were identified in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Region 12, Region 3, and Region 4A.
Polio, a highly infectious disease that mainly affects young children, can be transmitted primarily through the faecal-to-oral route resulting from poor sanitation and hygiene practices, and less frequently through contaminated food or water. The disease—which has no cure and can only be prevented with vaccines—can cause paralysis or even death.
“We have to remember that the polio outbreak is not over, so it is critical that we continue this life-saving work of immunizing our children against this debilitating disease, while responding to COVID-19,” said Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, UNICEF Philippines Representative, said the COVID-19 crisis “reminds us of the importance of vaccines to prevent diseases” such as polio.
“Unlike COVID-19, we already have a vaccine against polio that it is safe, effective, and free at health centers. The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the importance of vaccines to prevent diseases. Like wearing masks and physical distancing, each effort we make to vaccinate one child has the potential to protect all children from polio,” he said.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.