Senator Binay urges vigilance in Barangays to fight spread of poliovirus

Published September 22, 2019, 12:35 PM

by Rica Arevalo

By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay on Sunday urged barangay health workers to be proactive in its battle against polio, saying community surveillance is essential to address the virus at the community level.

Sen. Nancy Binay (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The first link of the surveillance chain are the barangay health centers, and for them to make sure that expanded vaccinations are given for other diseases, ranging from measles and rubella to meningitis, and that no children are missed,” Binay said.

Binay made the call following the Department of Health’s (DOH) confirmation on the resurgence of the poliovirus in the Philippines after 19 years.

The senator lamented that too much of disinformation about preventive vaccination has created a public nuisance, notwithstanding the high degree of distrust from parents is high among the reasons why polio reemerged.

“We’ve triumphed in being polio-free for 19 years until everything about vaccination went wrong,” Binay pointed out.

“And this is due to the disinformation and distorted presentations, the resistance of parents to have their children receive vaccine shots is very much overwhelming. DOH tried hard to increase the public’s vaccine confidence, but we’re like back to year 2000,” the senator said.

Binay said the first step to stopping transmission and preventing possible polio outbreak is to map and survey high-risk communities where health threats are occurring.

Binay said the poliovirus is spread through fecal matter, especially in poor and unsanitary areas. Although rarely fatal, polio is incurable and can permanently paralyze a child within hours of infection.

“Barangay health workers have an important role to fulfill. Local government units (LGUs) can help in increasing DOH’s surveillance efforts in monitoring high-risk areas, and in dealing with the level of community resistance against having children vaccinated,” she added.

The lawmaker noted the refusal of parents due to misconceptions regarding vaccination is the emerging obstacle in achieving complete eradication of polio and other preventive diseases.

“Despite the efforts of the DOH to allay the fears of the parents that vaccination is safe, and even if the health workers are patient enough to convince them about the benefits of these immunization efforts to their children, we cannot discount the trauma that misinformation has brought about, which is due in part, to social media,” Binay said.

The DOH, she said, might consider revamping its vaccination strategy in a renewed effort to wipe out the poliovirus.

“Polio’s return after 19 years may prove to be more dangerous to public health if compared to other illnesses,” she said.

“Without a dose of protection, children are more vulnerable to polio due to insufficient immunity particularly in communities with sanitation challenges. But there’s always hope in stopping polio,” Binay said.