EDITORIAL - Look at what the polio vaccine did

(The Freeman) - June 13, 2021 - 12:00am

There is now jubilation following the declaration that the Philippines is once more free from poliomyelitis or polio for short, a debilitating illness that leaves children crippled for life if it doesn’t kill them.

The declaration came from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund after it was observed that the virus has not been detected in children or in the environment for 16 months.

“This is a result of comprehensive outbreak response actions including intensified immunization and surveillance activities in affected areas of the country,” read an announcement from the two agencies.

While there should be celebration, there should also be the sobering realization that the re-emergence of polio was something totally preventable and avoidable, had some parents only been aware of the benefits that vaccination can bring.

Polio reemerged here in 2019, even as it had been eradicated from the rest of the world, precisely because some parents refused to have their children vaccinated. 

The cause of this refusal was fear, and that fear arose from the Dengvaxia mess that happened during the previous administration, where the deaths of several children were blamed on the vaccine meant to fight dengue fever.

Ill-informed parents, who only relied on information shared by dubious sources, or who gave in to their own fears and biases, were convinced that any vaccine administered to their children will be harmful to them.

In short, had those parents been properly informed that polio vaccines were safe, some children would not have been placed in danger.

It is lucky that the recent polio outbreak didn’t kill one child here.

Unfortunately this fear, this vaccine hesitancy continues today with the vaccines against COVID-19. Many people still do not know that modern science has made vaccines safe to the point that they can be used by a general population without any worries.

There is more cause to be concerned. This coronavirus we are facing right now isn’t like polio. While polio is transmitted through the environment, water, or food, COVID-19 can be spread more easily through droplets. Someone talking or coughing near you. Someone breathing the same air you are.

Hopefully, this brief episode with polio should teach some people that vaccines can actually help, and spur them to line up and get their shots when they can.

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