Editorial: Immunize your children vs polio

IN A September 9, 2019 report by SunStar Davao, Department of Health (DOH)-Davao Region warned that the Philippines is at high risk for polio despite the country being polio-free since 2000.

According to the DOH, “polio is an infectious disease which spreads rapidly. It can cause paralysis and, on rare occasions, can be fatal. There is no cure for polio — it can only be prevented with multiple doses of polio vaccines that have long been proven safe and effective.”

On September 19, 2019, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said polio has returned to the Philippines after the virus was detected from the samples taken from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao.

The following day, City Health Office (CHO) head Josephine Villafuerte confirmed that the poliovirus detected in one of the city's riverbanks was from a water sample sourced from the Davao River near the Bolton Bridge area.

In response, the CHO and DOH will step up their immunization following these discoveries. However, they did note that this will be a challenge considering the low turnout of immunization.

DOH-Davao Region National Immunization Program manager Janis Olavides said the Philippines is considered as high risk because for the past years, the coverage of polio vaccine has decreased. DOH aimed for 95 percent coverage but, they only recorded 67 percent nationwide.

In Davao Region, the polio immunization coverage is only at 67 percent in 2018 and for cumulative data from 2016 to 2018, the coverage of polio is only at 72 percent.

Based on CHO's 2018 polio vaccination immunization data, with an eligible population of 46,663 ages one year old and below, only 76.6 percent was given an oral polio vaccine type 1 and 3 (OPV3), while only 71.7 percent was given an injectable polio vaccine (IPV). There are different factors to the cause of the low immunization data. However, one stands out the most -- the fear of the alleged side effects of the vaccine against the disease. This can be attributed to the dengvaxia scare around a year ago.

However, there is nothing to fear about the current vaccine being used against polio,

“Vaccination is the only and best protection against polio that mainly affects children under five years of age. As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio,” said Oyun Dendevnorov, United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) Philippines representative, in a statement.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “oral polio vaccine (OPV) is a safe and effective vaccine that has saved millions of lives over the years.”

“OPV contains an attenuated (weakened) form of the virus, activating an immune response in the body. When a child is immunized with OPV, the weakened virus replicates in the intestine for a limited period, thereby developing immunity by building up antibodies. During this time, the virus is also excreted in their feces,” WHO said in a statement.

With that assurance and to ensure that our children are safe, make sure that they are immunized. WHO said to stop the spread of polio in the country, “at least 95 percent of children under five years of age need to be vaccinated.”


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