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DOH, WHO, and UNICEF to Resume Polio Campaign

With the support of the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the DOH is resuming its Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio Campaign in the Philippines.

The Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio campaign is to combat the poliovirus outbreak in the Philippines. The polio immunization campaign was shortly put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The next phase of the campaign in the whole of Mindanao will start on July 20 and last until August 2, 2020, for children under 5 years old. Children under 10 years old in selected areas in Mindanao will also receive polio drops.

Meanwhile, new polio immunization campaigns for children under 5 years old will begin in a phased approach in Region 3 (Central Luzon) on 20 July and in the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal in Region 4A in August.

Together with WHO and UNICEF, DOH and Centers for Health Development have been preparing for the immunization campaign, addressing the special challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic through online orientations and planning with field teams.

According to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, “Continuous implementation of polio response amid the present health crisis we are facing is important as this will prevent not only the debilitating effects of the disease but also interrupt the transmission during a pandemic.”

“Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease and we cannot let our gains over the years go to waste by deprioritizing our polio response. It is imperative for parents and caregivers to have their children vaccinated, while strictly adhering to infection prevention and control protocols, as we cannot afford to overwhelm our health system with another outbreak,” he emphasized.

Duque added that a whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approach is critical in preventing the polio outbreak. “We are calling for the support of the local government units, and all relevant stakeholders as we endeavor to continue the Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio. This way, we become part of the solution in helping each other stay healthy and save lives.”

Polio is a highly infectious disease that mainly affects young children, who have not completed their vaccination schedules.

The disease is transmitted from person-to-person primarily through the fecal-to-oral route resulting from poor sanitation and hygiene practices, and less frequently through contaminated food or water. Once in the intestine, the poliovirus multiplies and it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis or even death.

“We have to remember that the polio outbreak is not over, so it is critical that we continue this life-saving work of immunizing our children against this debilitating disease while responding to COVID-19,” said Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative in the Philippines. “But we must also remember to ensure that our dedicated frontline health workers and our communities are fully protected from COVID-19 during the polio campaign.

“To the health workers as well as the parents, caregivers and the children participating in the campaign: Be vigilant in practicing the preventive measures such as frequent hand hygiene, physical distancing and wearing of masks during planning, implementing and evaluating the polio response,” the WHO chief added.