By Analou De Vera
The Department of Health (DOH) said that the country is currently at “high-risk for poliovirus transmission” because of the drop in Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) coverage recently.
“For the past years, vaccination coverage for the third dose of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) has fallen below 95 percent, the target required to ensure population protection against polio,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in a statement.
The health chief also pointed out that surveillance on “Acute Flaccid Paralysis” has been consistently poor; and the practice of open defecation and poor sanitation have been persisting in communities.
“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,” said Duque.
To note, the country has been declared polio-free since October 2000. Polio is a fatal and disabling disease caused by poliovirus, which is transmitted when there is poor environmental sanitation and hygiene.
Duque said that the best preventive measure against polio is through complete vaccination.
“All children under one year old should complete their three doses of OPV and one dose of the Inactivated Polio Vaccine,” he said.
“We repeat our call to parents and caregivers: Back to bakuna. Una sa lahat, bakuna. Let us prioritize complete vaccination of our children so they remain safe from vaccine-preventable diseases,” he added.
The health chief said that it had planned measures to enhance polio prevention in the country.
“Among these measures are strengthened surveillance of children below five years old, who developed sudden onset of muscle weakness or paralysis of the upper and lower extremities, and a polio immunization campaign for all children under five years old,” he said.
Duque said that a “synchronized polio immunization” is expected to start in the City of Manila by mid-August, and will expand to the entire National Capital Region, and eventually to other priority regions.
“DOH also called for 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 handwashing,” he said.