THE Department of Health (DOH) in Northern Mindanao has urged parents to bring their kids to health centers for the government's immunization program, noting that only seven percent or over 8,000 out of the 119,000 children have availed themselves of the polio vaccination this year.
Karen Yee Garces, program manager of DOH-Northern Mindanao's Expanded Program on Immunization, said Tuesday, October 1, that the region has particularly low immunization status.
In 2018, the average polio vaccination coverage is only at 73 percent.
This year, the goal is to bring the average to 95 percent.
Garces assured that the vaccines are safe and very effective.
"They don't need to fear sa bakuna because these have undergone several trials. Dili angay kahadlokan kay this is very effective to protect the kids," Garces said.
In previous years, the average polio vaccine coverage reaches 85 percent but the vaccine scare and misinformation have caused the decline.
The last known polio case in the region is in 2001 and since then, no polio case had been reported in the locality.
Dr. Ian Christian Gonzales, cluster head of the Infectious Diseases Cluster, said an environmental surveillance on the sewage and waterways was done in 2017 to check for polio virus that yielded negative.
At present, environmental surveillance for polio is not available for Northern Mindanao. Gonzales said this is because the DOH budget for surveillance had been slashed.
Meanwhile, Garces said they are preparing for a massive immunization program, but for now, parents have been urged to go to the nearest health centers for routine immunization.
On September 19, the DOH declared polio outbreak. Two cases have been reported to date, a three-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur, and the second case is a five-year-old boy from Laguna Province.
Environmental samples taken from sewage in Manila have tested for polio virus.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk of international spread from the Philippines is low. However, the risk of further spread within the Philippines is high due to limited population immunity.
WHO advised people who frequently travel to polio-affected countries such as the Philippines to strengthen surveillance.
"Countries, territories and areas should also maintain uniformly high routine immunization coverage to minimize the consequences of any possible polio virus introduction or transmission. WHO recommends that all travelers and residents in polio-affected areas be fully vaccinated against polio," it said.