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WHO, Unicef declare end of polio outbreak in Philippines
At a press briefing, WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe announced that the Philippines had successfully ended the polio outbreak amid various challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, typhoons and volcanic eruptions.
AFP/Fabrice Coffrini

WHO, Unicef declare end of polio outbreak in Philippines

Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - June 12, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday declared as “closed” the polio outbreak in the Philippines after 17 confirmed cases and two years.

At a press briefing, WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe announced that the Philippines had successfully ended the polio outbreak amid various challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, typhoons and volcanic eruptions.

“Today is a very happy occasion. We are formally celebrating the end of the polio outbreak that has affected the Philippines for more than 600 days,” he said.

Abeyasinghe noted the Department of Health (DOH)’s polio outbreak response has been “tremendous.”

He underscored the DOH had “quickly launched decisive and sustained efforts” to control the outbreak since the detection of the first case in June 2019 in a three-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur.

“It was a massive logistical undertaking. And thus began the country’s long and arduous journey to protect every child from the crippling and possibly life threatening disease of polio,” he added.

The DOH had declared a polio outbreak in September 2019, after almost two decades of being polio free. The last case was detected in January 2020.

Abeyasinghe said that among the highlights of the country’s response from 2019 to 2021 are administering some 30 million doses of oral polio vaccines, vaccinating 11 million children, conducting 13 vaccination campaign rounds, testing 755 environmental samples from 42 sites and doing 5,155 polio surveilance samples nationwide.

“We salute all of you who have made this possible during this extremely challenging period by your commitment and dedication to achieve the closure of this outbreak,” he added.

United Nations Children’s Fund Philippine representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov also lauded the Philippines, pointing out that the success of the polio immunization in the country is “proof that when we come together for children, great things happen. UNICEF celebrates all the vaccine champions and partners who made this possible.”

“We must keep the momentum and accelerate routine immunization and safeguard essential child health services while rolling out COVID-19 vaccines for priority groups,” Dendevnorov added.

According to DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, “effective planning was key to the reorganization of our immunization activities.”

She said the activities for polio supplemental immunization campaign were concluded last March 31, reaching 87.3 percent of the target population. Seventeen cases of polio have been recorded.

“Every unvaccinated child remains at risk of contracting this disease. Hence, we must emphasize the value of getting vaccinated and continually ramp up our vaccination efforts to reach every child and thoroughly minimize the risk of another outbreak,” Vergeire added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they are hopeful the success of the anti-polio vaccination will set the tone for the agency’s other immunization programs.

“We take this way against polio as a drive to improve and strengthen the National Immunization Program through the post outbreak scenarios,” he maintained.

Duque added the polio campaign is a “testament to the safety and efficacy of vaccines,” so he encouraged the public to get the jabs not only for polio but other diseases as well.

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