WHO, UNICEF express concern over polio outbreak in PHL, call for urgent action

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019   •   217

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.

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

“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.

Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.

Cayetano: Amid challenges, PH all set for SEA Games

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 16, 2019

Amid challenges, House of Representatives (HOR) Speaker Alan Cayetano said the country is all set for the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) which will be held from November 30 to December 11.

“Overall, we are hundred percent ready. Now ang challenges natin ang day to day (Now, the challenges will be the day-to-day [activities]),” he said during a press conference on Wednesday (October 16) at New Clark City in Tarlac.

Cayetano along with other lawmakers, including Senator Bong Go and HOR’s Committee on Youth and Sports, conducted an inspection of the facility.

However, Cayetano admitted they will still encounter problems because of the budget cut from P7.5 billion to P5 billion this year.

The House Speaker said they can still make ends meet through volunteers and sponsors.

“Pinupunuan ng volunteers iyong pagkukulang natin sa mga paid workers (Volunteers are filling in for our shortcomings to the paid workers),” Cayetano said.

The SEA Games will feature 56 sports or around 500 events. Sixty percent of these events will be held at the New Clark City.—AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

Indonesian Navy warships arrive in PH for goodwill visit

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 16, 2019

Two Indonesian vessels arrived at Alava Pier in Olongapo City on Tuesday (October 15) for a goodwill visit to the Philippines.

The ships, Bung Tomo-class corvette KRI John Lie (358) and SIGMA-class corvette KRI Frans Kaisiepo (368) will remain in the country until October 18.

The visit aims to establish diplomatic relations and promote Indonesian culture and tourism.

“The visiting navy personnel will engage their Filipino counterparts during confidence-building activities such as shipboard tour, reciprocal receptions, and friendly games,” according to the Philippine Navy.

It is the second goodwill visit of Indonesian Navy to the country this year following the arrival of their training ship KRI Bima Suci last August.—AAC

Day 1 of door-to-door polio vaccination in Manila yields 35,000 vaccinees

Maris Federez   •   October 16, 2019

A child receives an oral polio vaccine from Red Cross volunteers during a vaccination program by the UNICEF at a public school building turned into a temporary evacuation center in the super typhoon devastated city of Tacloban, Leyte province, Philippines, 26 November 2013. EPA/DENNIS M. SABANGAN

More than 35,000 children in Manila benefitted from the door-to-door vaccination against poliovirus conducted by the Manila Health Department (MHD) on Tuesday (October 15).

This is out of the 95,000 children that the city targets to administer the vaccines to.

MHD chief Dr. Arnold Pangan said the extensive campaigning they conducted helped a lot in convincing the parents to have their children inoculated with the vaccine.

“Una, ‘yung nag-declare na ang DOH ng outbreak. Pangalawa, naging massive ang campaign natin,” Dr. Pangan said.

Barangay health workers were also satisfied with the cooperation of the parents in their respective areas.

“Pag nandyan na kami, lalabas na sila. Hindi katulad nung nakaraan na talagang sapilitan kami. Nanghaharang kami, ganun (As soon as we arrived, they’re already there. Unlike in the past, we really had to force them),” said barangay health worker Virginia Bornilla.

Despite the large number of children inoculated with the polio vaccine on the first day, the local government of Manila admits that it is still a challenge for them to convince the parents who still have fear to have their children vaccinated.

“May mga nanay pa rin na (There are still mothers who are), in a way, pessimistic, right? Apprehensive, hesitant para bakunahan ‘yung mga anak nila (for their children to get vaccinated). Doon pa rin ang nagiging problema, ‘yung Dengvaxia issue (The dengvaxia issue is still where the problem lies),” said Pangan.

“Kukulitin namin, papaliwanagin paulit-ulit. Maaaring hindi namin nabakunahan ngayong araw, bukas, kukulitin ka namin,” he added.

(We will just have to bug them, explain to them repeatedly. We may have been not able to have your child vaccinated today, but tomorrow we will bug you again.)

Pangan further said that they utilized all health workers in the 57 health centers in Manila in doing the door-to-door vaccination project.

The MHD expects to have the door-to-door activity completed within the week. (from the report of Harlene Delgado) /mbmf

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