By Analou De Vera
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the "End Polio Now" campaign, the Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday recognized the efforts of the Rotary International to eradicate the debilitating disease.
"I want to express my sincerest thanks to the Rotary Club for all your efforts to serve and uplift our people, especially in ardently supporting our campaign against polio," said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III before the Rotary members at the Rotary Club of Makati (RCM) Clubhouse in Guadalupe Viejo, Makati City.
Duque noted that polio eradication has been one of the organization's "long-standing and most significant efforts."
"The Rotary districts for almost 30 years have made a commitment to eradicate polio in the world and have helped to reduce polio cases by 99.9 percent since the first project to vaccinate children in this country," said Duque.
To note, drops of oral polio vaccine in the country were first administered to Filipino children in 1979 with the initiative of the Rotary International. The event then started the poliomyelitis immunization effort in the country.
RCM President Vicente Mills said that eradicating polio is a continuing effort.
"We know our work is never done and we continue to pool our efforts, our time and our resources together because fighting this particular disease and so many others, necessitate continuing effort," he said.
This was affirmed by Rotary International Director Rafael Garcia III, saying that the organization is concerned about the recent reports of vaccine-derived polio cases in the Philippines.
"We want to make sure that we can help the Department of Health really increase the immunization level of our children so that we can really get rid of polio and get back to being polio-free," he said.
Duque expressed optimism that the polio problem in the country will be addressed soon with the help of the different organizations and government agencies.
“We are extremely grateful to Rotary's pledge of support to our fight against polio through fund-raising advocacy and volunteer recruitment, and as the DOH intensifies its advocacy campaigns for ‘Sabayang Patak Kontra’ Polio, the challenge before us will not be easy, but it is definitely not insurmountable, especially since we have dedicated partners such as the Rotary,” the health chief said.
“With the whole system, the whole of government, the whole of society effort--I'm positive we can again put an end to polio once and for all,” he added.
Aside from polio vaccination, Duque noted that they are also strengthening their surveillance on acute flaccid paralysis cases, environmental surveillance, as well as intensifying the zero open defecation program.
“Aside from vaccination, these measures are critical to ascertain that we can mitigate, if not completely halt the spread of poliovirus from one vulnerable person to another,” he said.