WHO, UNICEF express concern over polio outbreak in PHL, call for urgent action
Robie de Guzman • September 19, 2019 • 470
MANILA, Philippines – The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday expressed concern over the re-emergence of poliovirus in the Philippines 19 years after it was declared polio-free.
The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) earlier announced an outbreak on polio after a case was confirmed in a 3-year old girl from Lanao del Sur. Environmental samples from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao also tested positive for the poliovirus.
“We are very concerned that polioviruses are now circulating in Manila, Davao, and Lanao del Sur,” WHO Representative in the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in a joint statement with UNICEF.
“It is deeply disconcerting that poliovirus has re-emerged in the Philippines after nearly two decades. The outbreak calls for urgent action to protect more children from being infected,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyun Dendevnorov said.
The agencies said the polio outbreak in the Philippines is confirmed to be from a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2.
This is of particular concern, as wild poliovirus type 2 was certified as globally eradicated in 2015, they added.
Polio mainly affects children under five years of age and vaccination is their only and best protection against the highly infectious disease.
But if immunization activities are poorly conducted and too few children have received the required three doses of polio vaccine, the agencies said this can leave them “susceptible to poliovirus, either from vaccine-derived or wild polioviruses.”
“Full immunization protects them from both forms of the virus.”
“It reminds us of the importance of increasing immunization coverage to 95% of children to stop polio virus transmission in the Philippines… As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio,” Dendevnorov said.
Prior to the declaration of the outbreak, the DOH and its partners launched a polio immunization campaign in the City of Manila. Further mass polio immunization rounds will be rolled out from October 2019.
The WHO and UNICEF both vowed to work closely with the DOH to strengthen surveillance and swiftly respond to the outbreak.
They also echoed the DOH’s call for parents and guardians, especially in affected areas, to have their children vaccinated for their protection against diseases.
“We urge all parents and caregivers of children under 5 years of age to have them vaccinated so that they are protected against polio for life.”
The WHO and UNICEF assured the oral polio vaccine (OPV) is a safe and effective vaccine that has saved millions of lives since its introduction in 1988.
The agencies explained that when a child is immunized with OPV, the weakened virus contained in the vaccine replicates in the intestine for a limited period, thereby developing immunity by building up antibodies.
If a population is not sufficiently immunized, the weakened virus can continue to circulate. The longer it is allowed to survive, the more changes it undergoes.
“In rare instances, the virus can change to a vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV), a form that has regained the ability to cause paralysis,” they said.
The WHO and UNICEF likewise called on local governments to help ensure that immunization campaigns are planned and implemented effectively.
They also reminded families to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly with soap and water, use a toilet, consume food that is fully cooked, and drink safe water.
The two agencies are among the partner-organizations under the Global Polio Eradication initiative (GPEI) supporting the Philippine government’s response by providing technical advice and on-the-ground monitoring and risk communication.
The GPEI is a public-private partnership led by national governments with the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Countries around the world are considering to further ease restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) despite that the global confirmed infections surpassed 5.2 million.
According to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO), the global confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 5,206,614, including 337,736 deaths, as of 19:07 CEST Sunday.
The United States continues to be the country with the most confirmed cases and deaths caused by COVID-19 in the world, followed by Brazil and Russia.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. topped 1.64 million as of 23:32 EST on Sunday, reaching 1,641,585, and the death toll of COVID-19 rose to 97,686, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
Brazil has emerged as world’s second-worst hit country for coronavirus cases, with 363,211 confirmed cases registered.
Brazil registered 653 deaths from the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll to 22,666, the Ministry of Health reported Sunday evening local time.
The largest country in Latin America also registered 15,813 new cases in the last 24 hours.
Russia confirmed 8,599 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, raising its total number of infections to 344,481, its coronavirus response center said in a statement Sunday.
The death toll climbed by 153 to 3,541, while 113,299 people recovered, including 5,363 over the last 24 hours, according to the center.
As of Sunday, more than 8.6 million COVID-19 tests had been conducted in Russia.
Russian Health Ministry’s chief epidemiologist Nikolai Briko said on Sunday that Russia currently is not ready to lift all restrictions.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed an order to subsidize regional budgets in the amount of 100 billion rubles to compensate for the reduction in regional fiscal revenue, according to a report from TASS on Sunday.
The funds will be distributed among 56 entities of the Russian Federation, whose tax and non-tax receipts as of May 1, 2020 were below those in the previous two years.
In the United Kingdom, another 118 COVID-19 patients died as of Saturday afternoon, bringing the total coronavirus-related death toll in the country to 36,793, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday.
The figures include deaths in all settings, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community.
Chairing Sunday’s Downing Street daily press briefing, Johnson confirmed that primary schools in England will partially reopen for pupils from June 1, including the Reception, Year One, and Year Six in primary schools.
He added that he intends for secondary schools to provide some contact for Year 10 and Year 12 students to help them to prepare for exams next year from June 15.
Italy’s Civil Protection Department said on Sunday that another 50 COVID-19 patients died in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s death toll to 32,785, out of total infection cases of 229,858.
The number of recoveries rose to 140,479, an increase of 1,639 compared to Saturday. Nationwide, the number of active infections fell by 1,158 to 56,594, according to the department.
Of those active infections, 553 are being treated in intensive care, a decrease of 19 compared to Saturday, and 8,613 people are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 82 over the past 24 hours.
The remaining 47,428 people, or 84 percent, are in isolation at home without or with only mild symptoms.
Italy has about 60 million population, and about 21.98 million of them have conducted COVID-19 test.
Italy entered the second phase of its coronavirus lockdown on May 4. Stores, restaurants, barber shops and museums reopened last Monday. Staring from this Monday, gyms will reopen as well.
The Spanish Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare said on Sunday that the coronavirus death toll rose by 70 to 28,752 in the country.
According to the ministry, 70 people lost their lives in the 24 hours until midnight on Saturday, 22 more than the number reported a day earlier.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 235,772 from 235,290, it said.
Starting Monday, Spain will further ease some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, allowing some shops and stores at commercial centers, as well as schools in some areas to reopen. It will also reduce restrictions on travel.
The Community of Madrid and the city of Barcelona – areas that did not move from Zero to Phase One before – will also start to reopen parks, museums, religious sites, and outdoor dining places under strict prevention measures.
The number of patients hospitalized for the COVID-19 infection in France rose by seven to 17,185 in the last 24 hours, the first such increase since mid-April, according to data released on Sunday by the Health Ministry.
The number of patients in intensive care continued the downward trend, falling by 10 to 1,655.
The number of confirmed cases, meanwhile, rose to 144,921, an increase of 115 – the lowest daily increase since mid-March.
The overall death toll in hospitals increased by 36, while the death toll in social and medico-social establishments will be updated on Monday.
The French government this week will announce plans on loosening restrictions, especially plans for the summer vocation, French Transport and Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne said in an interview on Sunday.
People can travel within the country, but may still face restrictions on traveling abroad.
The Japanese government plans to fully lift the state of emergency in the Tokyo metropolitan area and Hokkaido on Monday, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Sunday.
The decision came as the number of new COVID-19 cases is on a declining trend and the medical system also improved.
Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama and Hokkaido were the last remaining areas under the state of emergency among the country’s 47 prefectures.
The confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country increased by 26 to reach 16,569, according to the latest figures from the health ministry and local authorities on Sunday.
The number excludes the 712 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama near Tokyo.
In Tokyo, 14 new infections were reported on Sunday, raising the total number in the prefecture to 5,152 so far, while nine deaths were confirmed on the same day. (Reuters)
MANILA, Philippines — Upon the recommendation of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has approved the proposed participation of the Philippines in clinical trials that seek to formulate a potential vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Based on IATF Resolution No.39 dated May 22, 2020, the task force has also ordered the creation of a sub-technical working group which will be led by the DOST.
The group will be coordinating with the four collaborating organizations composed of the Department of Health (DOH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the World Health Organization (WHO) with regard to the said clinical trials.
The IATF has also issued a directive to the FDA to facilitate the processing of necessary permits for the conduct of the clinical trials in the country.
The collaborating organizations for the clinical trials are the Adimmune Corporation, Academia Sinica, Chinese Academy of Science- Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health, the Sinopharm – Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, and the Beijing Institute.
Once the clinical trials are undertaken, these will be included in the FDA’s requirements for the registration process for the vaccine and the application for certificate of registration to make the vaccine available in the market.
The Philippines has initially participated in the WHO’s clinical trials, which include the testing of off-label drugs that show potential of being effective against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the IATF has also approved the plans of the DOST to construct research centers for the local vaccine research development.
These include the Virology S&T Institute at the New Clark City in Tarlac and the reactivation of the Pharmaceutical Development Unit of the DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute. —(from the report of Rosalie Coz) /mbmf
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