The Department of Health (DOH) is getting ready for the launching of synchronized polio vaccination today amid threats of polio resurgence in the Philippines.
According to DOH Sec. Francisco Duque III, the immunization will start in the city of Manila and will be extended to other areas in the metro, and then to other priority regions.
“We repeat our call to parents and caregivers: back to bakuna. Una sa lahat, bakuna. Complete vaccination is the best preventive measure against polio,” Duque said.
Duque emphasized the need for the completion of three doses of oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) and one dose of inactivated polio vaccine for children under one year old.
He said that the recent drop in OPV coverage is the cause of the increase of polio cases in the country.
Based on the DOH data, the coverage for the third dose has decreased from the required 95% to ensure the whole protection against the debilitating disease.
“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 stated.
Duque warns that the risk of having the virus again might be from neighbouring countries, where the infection has been reported to have circulated lately.
Although the country has been polio-free for the past 19 years, prevention is still better than cure.
“The health and future of our children are at risk due to a disease, which otherwise could have been prevented,” Duque reiterated in his statement.
He also added that adopting certain measures will enhance polio prevention in the country, and one of those measures is the polio immunization campaign for all below five years old children.
He said that the children will be strongly monitored in case of sudden development of muscle weakness or upper and lower extremity paralysis.
The Health department also observed that acute flaccid paralysis has been consistently poor in communities, although the practice of open defecation and poor sanitation still remain in certain places.
Polio can be transmitted around areas with poor environmental sanitation and hygiene. It could possibly be a fatal and disabling disease caused by poliovirus.
That is why the DOH pushes the nationwide implementation of the Zero Open Defecation program to strengthen the cry for proper environmental sanitation and personal hygiene, such as frequent handwashing.