MANILA, Philippines, 14 October 2019 – The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are supporting the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) in the synchronized polio vaccination campaign launched today in Metro Manila, Davao City and Marawi City. The immunization campaign that started on October 14 will continue until October 27. The campaign aims to cover around 1.8 million children under 5 years old in the three areas as well as in Davao del Sur and Lanao del Sur.
“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. “To stop this outbreak, we aim to reach nearly two million children within two weeks. 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.”
Polio is a highly infectious and potentially fatal disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death in a matter of hours. There is no cure for polio. However, 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, 66% of children completed their oral polio vaccine (drops) doses and 45% received their inactivated polio vaccine (injection) dose. At least 95% of children under 5 years of age need to be vaccinated, irrespective of their current vaccination status, to stop the spread of polio in the country.
“Every child under 5 years old in these priority areas need to be vaccinated now,” said Oyun Dendevnorov, UNICEF Philippines Representative. “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 affirmed.
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. WHO and UNICEF are also working to ensure clear communication to mobilise the general public aiming to achieve high turnout of all children under 5 years old for vaccination. The Philippine Government is also partnering with other UN agencies as well as international and local non-government organizations.
The Department of Health announced a polio outbreak in the Philippines last 19 September 2019.
To rapidly boost population immunity in response to the outbreak, additional doses of polio drops are being provided to eligible children, free of charge, living in Davao City, Davao del Sur and Lanao del Sur, including Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao, and in Metro Manila, starting 14 to 27 October 2019. WHO and UNICEF urge all children under five years of age living in these areas to receive additional doses of polio vaccine, regardless of their previous immunization status.
Across the Philippines, WHO and UNICEF are also reminding parents and caregivers of children under the age of five to ensure that their children are vaccinated against polio according to the national routine immunization schedule. Vaccination is provided for free at health centres and involves three doses of polio drops and one injection.