The Philippines was declared polio-free in 2000, but since the last recorded case was in 1993, an official warned that the “setting is ripe” for the recurrence of the fatal and disabling disease.
READ: National polio vaccination drive kicks off in Manila
Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo on Wednesday attributed the return of polio to the low vaccination coverage triggered by the Dengvaxia scare, and following the deaths of some children administered the anti-dengue vaccine.
Another factor for the recurrence of polio is the poor hygiene and sanitation in some areas, Domingo said.
Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippines risked losing its polio-free status if it did not boost its immunization program.
Domingo told ANC’s Headstart no case of polio had yet been detected.
“However, the setting is ripe for it to come back and we have to prevent it,” Domingo said.
“We don’t want to lose that polio-free certification. We haven’t had a polio case in 26 years. We don’t want it to come back because it’s debilitating, it’s a very deadly disease.”
Domingo said his department was moving to give polio vaccines to children below five years old. He said it was easier to convince parents to have their kids inoculated, adding their efforts were concentrated in Baseco and Tondo in Manila, which were considered “hot spots.”
On Monday, Manila Mayor Franciso ‘Isko’ Domagoso led the synchronized polio vaccination kick-off activity in Manila as he targeted 197,000 children in the city to be free of the poliovirus.
The activity, with the theme “Olats ang Polio sa Maynila”, was held at the Del Paso covered court in Quiapo, Manila.
Domagoso was joined by Domingo, Manila Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan and the UNICEF Country Representative.
The first round of polio vaccinations was set on Aug. 19 and will run until Aug. 30. The second round will be given on Oct. 1 to 14 and the third round on Nov. 15 to 30.
Duque renewed his call to all parents and caregivers to give priority to the complete vaccination of their children, adding complete vaccination was still the best preventive measure against polio.
He said all children below one-year-old should complete their three doses of OPV and one dose of the Inactivated Polio Vaccine.
He told the public not to risk the health and future of their children due to a disease that could be prevented.
For the past years, he said, the vaccination coverage for the third dose of the Oral Polio Vaccine had fallen below 95 percent, the target required to ensure protection against polio.
He also said the surveillance on Acute Flaccid Paralysis had been consistently poor and the practice of open defecation and poor sanitation had been persisting in communities.
He said the Philippines was at risk of importing poliovirus from neighboring countries where the virus had recently been found to have recirculated.
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