Polio outbreak in PH is over, say WHO, DOH
MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health (DOH) on Friday formally announced the end of the polio outbreak in the Philippines, nearly two years after the resurgence of the disease in the country.
“Today is a very happy occasion. We are formally celebrating the end of the polio outbreak that has affected the Philippines for more than 600 days,” World Health Organization (WHO) representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in a press briefing hosted by the DOH.
“This is a major win for public health and is an excellent example of what collective efforts can attain, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
According to Abeyasinghe, no poliovirus has been detected “in the past 16 months.”
“We need to maintain a strong surveillance system to ensure that the closure of this outbreak is sustained,” he added.
In September 2019, the DOH announced the resurgence of polio in the country nearly two decades after the Philippines was declared polio-free.
Following the resurgence of polio, the DOH immediately planned and implemented “several rounds of supplemental immunization campaign” to stop the outbreak, DOH Spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it led to the momentary pause in immunization activities to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 among our local health care workers and our local communities,” she said.
“Once restrictions were eased, immunization services also resumed additional health protocols to safely immunize every child in the country. Effective planning was key to the reorganization of our immunization activities,” she added.
The DOH concluded activities for the polio supplemental immunization campaign last March 31, 2021, according to Vergeire.
“The coverage for the supplemental immunization against polio reached 87.3 percent of the targeted population. This level of coverage is an outstanding accomplishment for the country in combating polio and this was duly recognized by the WHO,” she added
Last June 3, Vergeire said the WHO sent a letter to the DOH “to officially announce the closure of the polio outbreak and to commend all of us for this effective response.”
The DOH official then stressed the importance of emphasizing the value of vaccination.
“We need to ramp up efforts to vaccinate children to prevent another outbreak…Let’s continue investing in our immunization program,” she added.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Philippines lauded the country’s end of the polio outbreak.
“The success of the polio immunization in the Philippines is proof that when we come together for children, great things happen,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said in a statement.
“UNICEF celebrates all the vaccine champions and partners who made this possible. We must keep the momentum and accelerate routine immunization and safeguard essential child health services while rolling out COVID-19 vaccines for priority groups,” she added.
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