Public urged to join DOH vaccination program as polio re-emerges in PHL

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019   •   475

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday called on the public to join in the government’s synchronized vaccination program on polio following confirmation of its re-emergence in the country.

Duque said one polio case was confirmed in a 3-year old girl from Lanao del Sur.

A suspected case of acute flaccid paralysis is also awaiting confirmation, he added.

Based on the results of the child’s examination, she is suffering from vaccine-derived polio virus type 2.

The DOH chief also said that poliovirus has been detected in water sewage samples taken from Manila and Davao during a regular environmental surveillance.

The samples were tested by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and verified by the Japan National Institute for Infectious Diseases and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The health secretary said the Philippines has been declared polio-free in the last 19 years and its re-emergence in two different locations already suggests an epidemic.

“A single confirmed polio case of vaccine-derived polio virus type 2 (VDPV2) or two positive environmental samples that are genetically linked isolated in two different locations is considered an epidemic in a polio free country,” Duque said.

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease which spreads rapidly. It can cause paralysis and, on rare occasions, can be fatal.

The DOH said there is no cure for polio and it can only be prevented with multiple doses of polio vaccines that have long been proven safe and effective.

In response, the government will launch a series of synchronized oral polio immunization program for children under the age of five in areas at risk beginning next month.

The health chief urged parents and guardians to protect their children from the disease by fully participating in the program.

“We strongly urge parents, health workers and local governments to fully participate in the synchronized polio vaccination. It is the only way to stop the polio outbreak and to protect your child against this paralyzing disease,” he said. 

DOH said it will also work closely with local government units and concerned agencies in implementing rapid response to the polio outbreak with the help of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The department will also work with partners to strengthen environmental and Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance throughout the country to detect poliovirus.

“Aside from immunization, we remind the public to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly, use toilets, drink safe water, and cook food thoroughly,” he said.

PH now working on terminating PH-US VFA, says Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020

Philippine Marines rush to shore during an amphibious landing exercise with United States counterparts on a beach on the coast of the Naval Education and Training Command in Zambales Province, northwest of Manila, Philippines, 09 May 2018. The Philippines-US Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) Military Exercise is on its 34th iteration, which is aimed to enhance interoperability between security forces of the two countries. EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang confirmed Friday that the Philippines has started the process of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to end the deal if it does not reverse the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president issued the termination order Thursday night despite giving a month for the US to restore the senator’s visa.

Panelo said the order has already been relayed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. as well as Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.

“I just talked with Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, and he said that he will start with the process and he called up already the vice chair and they talked, and Ambassador Romualdez has already been informed, I was also talking to him earlier,” he said.

In a tweet on Friday, Locsin confirmed he and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have taken the first step in ending the 1998 deal with the US government.

Locsin sits as the chairperson of the Commission on Visiting Forces while Lorenzana serves as vice chairman.

“Del Lorenzana and I- as Vice and Chair of USVFA – are starting the process of terminating it by first contacting the Senate because it is a treaty on our side, an executive agreement on the US side. I’m leaving for Washington on a totally unrelated matter,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Lorenzana, for his part, refrained from commenting into Duterte’s latest pronouncement.

“Will study it first,” he said in a message to reporters. “No comment muna. Too soon to comment.”

The VFA is a bilateral accord between Washington and Manila that came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines. It includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

The deal may be terminated by either of the two countries by writing to the other party signifying their intent to end the agreement. Its expiration will come 180 days from the date of notification. – RRD (with details from Correspondents Rosalie Coz & Lea Ylagan)

Duterte can scrap PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement without Senate approval – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte can terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States (US) even without the concurrence of the Senate, Malacañang said on Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement after the president threatened to scrap the VFA if the US government does not reverse the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

“Because it (VFA) is an executive agreement so he can cancel it without the approval of the Senate,” Panelo said.

Dela Rosa on Wednesday confirmed to media that he is not allowed to travel to the US for now after he received notification about his visa cancellation.

The senator said the exact reason on why his US visa was cancelled remains unclear but he heard reports it might be linked to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs that he spearheaded when he was the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from 2016 to 2018.

The VFA, signed by Manila and Washington in 1998, is a bilateral deal which outlines the guidelines for the conduct of government troops when they are visiting the US or the Philippines.

Panelo said the US government should not intervene with the Philippines’ internal issues.

The Palace official also believes the president’s threat to cancel the VFA will not affect Filipino workers in the US. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Confirmed polio cases in PH climb to 16 – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday said it recorded four more confirmed cases of polio, bringing to 16 the total number of cases since the outbreak was declared in September 2019.

The DOH said two of the new cases were from Maguindanao – both males, two and three years old, as reported by the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM).

The third case is a two-year-old boy from Sultan Kudarat while the fourth case is a three-year-old boy from Quezon City.

The children were said to have manifested with fever, diarrhea, muscle pain, asymmetric ascending paralysis and weakness of extremities.

In light of this, the DOH reiterated its call for parents to have their children vaccinated against the disease through its Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio (SPKP) campaign.

The department said the campaign’s succeeding rounds are scheduled from January 20 to February 2 in all regions of Mindanao, and from January 27 to February 7 in the National Capital Region.

“I urge all parents and caregivers of children under five years old to take part in the coming SPKP campaign rounds scheduled in your respective areas. Have your children, including those with private physicians or pediatricians, vaccinated with oral polio vaccine by health workers and bakunators,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement.

“Additional polio doses can provide additional protection to your children. There is no overdose with the oral polio vaccine,” he added.

In September 2019, the department confirmed the re-emergence of the disease in the Philippines 19 years after it was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization.

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