Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Domagoso on Monday led the synchronized polio vaccination kickoff activity in the capital, as the city government targeted 197,000 children to be free of poliovirus.
Since the Philippines is currently at high risk of poliovirus transmission despite being declared polio-free since October 2000, Moreno cited the need to address the viral disease.
The kickoff activity with the theme “Olats ang Polio sa Maynila” (Polio Loses in Manila) was held at the Del Paso covered court in Quiapo.
Moreno was joined by Department of Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, Manila Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan, and UNICEF country representatives.
The first round of polio vaccination is set from Aug. 19 to 30, with the second round on Oct. 1 to 14 and a third round on Nov. 15 to 30.
Polio is a fatal and disabling disease caused by poliovirus, which is transmitted in poor environmental sanitation and hygiene conditions.
Complete vaccination is the best preventive measure against polio, the DOH said. All children under one year old should complete their three doses of OPV and one dose of the Inactivated Polio Vaccine.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had warned that the country risks losing its polio-free status “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.”
“Most importantly, we risk the health and future of our children due to a disease which otherwise could have been prevented,” he emphasized in a statement.
“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,” said Duque.
vaccination coverage for the third dose of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) had fallen below 95%, the target required to ensure population protection against the disease.
He also said the surveillance on Acute Flaccid Paralysis has been consistently poor, and the practice of open defecation and poor sanitation have been persisting in communities.
Furthermore, Duque said the Philippines is at risk for importation of poliovirus from neighboring countries where the virus has recently been found to have recirculated.
In response, the DOH identified priority areas that need to strengthen preventive measures against polio.
DOH has planned measures to enhance polio prevention in Metro Manila, including strengthened surveillance of children below 5 years old who develop sudden onset of muscle weakness or paralysis of the upper and lower extremities, and a polio immunization campaign for all children under five.
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.
DOH also reiterated its advisory that the Manila Bay remains unsafe for swimming.