ALTHOUGH the last polio case in the country was in 1993, the Department of Health reiterated that Filipino children cannot be considered safe from the illness because the poliovirus-2 easily moves from one country to another.
“We will not stop until the whole world is polio-free,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said as she led a ceremonial destruction of infected samples.
“This will be another milestone towards polio eradication,” Ubial said, adding that poliomyelitis dipped by 99 percent worldwide from an estimated 350,000 cases to 74 reported last year, according to the latest data of the World Health Organization.
“Imagine how many children were saved,” Ubial said during the ceremony which is part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative [GPEI] which now aims to ensure that all wild poliovirus stocks are safely contained by 2018. Last year, it also destroyed all WPV isolates and clinical samples.
The Health secretary also explained that surveillance and immunization are the most important steps in the global fight.
“Vaccines really have their place,” she said, noting that only Afghanistan and Pakistan remain polio-endemic to date.
Failure to eliminate polio from these countries makes all children worldwide at risk and could result in around 200,000 new cases every year, the WHO reported.
Polio mostly affects children of under five years old. 1 out of 200 infections leads to paralysis. From this figure, five to 10 percent of the infected die when the breathing muscles become immobilized.
Last April, the Philippines switched from trivalent to bivalent oral polio vaccine which is expected to eradicate the virus from all vaccine recipients after three months.
In 1980, a global immunization campaign led by WHO also erased the smallpox disease through a 30-year effort. Ubial said this is also the goal for polio.