THE World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) are backing the Department of Health (DOH) in the synchronized polio vaccination campaign as it aims to reach nearly 2 million children within two weeks to stop the outbreak.
This, as the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), which has actively supported the DOH campaign, reported on Tuesday, its teams have administered the polio vaccine to 7,281 children in Metro Manila and two Mindanao provinces in the two days since the synchronized, DOH-led campaign began.
“The polio outbreak is a wakeup call for the Philippines. We must act now to protect children against polio, and other vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization,” said acting WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe after the DOH launched on Monday in Metro Manila, Davao City and Marawi City the mass immunization, to run until October 27.
The campaign aims to cover around 1.8 million children under five years old in the three areas, as well as in Davao del Sur and Lanao del Sur.
“We will work closely with the Department of Health to achieve this target. We need bayanihan [community-spirit] from everyone —the parents and caregivers, mayors, governors, community and religious leaders, health workers, volunteers, and media partners,” Abeyasinghe said, stressing that polio is a highly infectious and potentially fatal disease caused by a virus.
For her part, Oyun Dendevnorov, Unicef Philippines Representative, said that every child under five years old in listed priority areas.
“There is no alternative to protect children from the risk of polio than vaccinating them. The polio vaccine is safe and effective. Unicef is working with WHO to support DOH meet the country’s immunization targets,” she said.
Polio invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis, or even death in a matter of hours. There is no cure for polio but it can be prevented through safe and effective vaccines.
The Philippines has seen a decline of immunization coverage in the past few years, including for protection against polio.
In 2018, at least 66 percent of children completed their oral polio vaccine (drops) doses and 45 percent received their inactivated polio vaccine (injection) dose.
At least 95 percent of children under five years of age need to be vaccinated, irrespective of their current vaccination status, to stop the spread of polio in the country.
WHO and Unicef are working with the Philippine Government to support vaccine supply and cold chain management, on-the-ground coordination, operations support and monitoring.
They are also working to ensure clear communication to mobilize the general public aiming to achieve high turnout of all children under five years old for vaccination.
Armed with service kits and vaccines, volunteers of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) braved the heat of the sun and conducted door-to-door vaccination for children ages zero to five. PRC, through its chapters from NCR (Manila, Pasay, Quezon City, Marikina, Caloocan, Navotas, Valenzuela, Taguig, Muntinlupa and Las Piñas) and Mindanao (Davao City, Davao del Sur and Lanao del Sur) joined the “Sabayang Patak kontra Polio” campaign of the Department of Health (DOH) which kicked off on October 14.
Each vaccination team deployed to the barangays has four volunteers—a team leader, a health educator, a recorder and a vaccinator. The team leader secures the list of the children to be vaccinated and leads the team to the households. The health educator explains what the vaccination is for and gives advice on good health and hygiene practices—as a dirty environment encourages the spread of polio. The recorder gets the details of the child and the family, and also secures the consent for the vaccination. The vaccinator administers the vaccine. This strategy not only ensures that vulnerable children are vaccinated and properly recorded but also provides an avenue to explain the vaccines to parents and guardians. The DOH recorded a 95-percent decline in polio vaccination among children below five years old last year.
“It is through the power of [our] pool of volunteers that the Red Cross can help our partners in fighting polio in the Sabayang Patak kontra Polio,” said Sen. Richard J. Gordon, PRC chairman and CEO.
Image credits: PRC