The Department of Health’s (DOH) Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio (SPKP) campaign continues its efforts across Mindanao, Central Luzon, and Southern Tagalog regions since resuming last July 20, 2020.

Launched in 2019 when the presence of the polio virus was first detected in the waterways of the National Capital Region (NCR), the next rounds of the SPKP were briefly put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A highly infectious but preventable disease, polio is transmitted through the fecal-oral route or through ingesting water or food contaminated with the poliovirus, usually in areas with poor sanitation and poor personal hygiene

In response to the polio outbreak, the DOH has been working closely with Local Government Units (LGUs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Development Partners and other key stakeholders including community members. “Yan ang susi sa ating tagumpay — ang pagtutulungan ng lahat ng stakeholders, what we call “whole-of-society” approach,” shared DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.

Because of the restrictions caused by COVID-19, special preparations like online orientations on polio vaccination and infection prevention and control guidelines and meticulous planning with field teams are being held to ensure a safe and quality immunization campaign.

In the first quarter of 2020, the DOH has immunized over 95% of the target children to fully stop the spread of polio. As shared by the World Health Organization (WHO), to successfully stop the outbreak, 95% coverage for every round of immunization must be met.

Since resuming the SPKP campaign, 3,408,241 children were vaccinated in Mindanao. Due to COVID-19 limitations, 1,093,317 out of the 1,347,005 target or only 81.16% were vaccinated in Central Luzon. Meanwhile, in CALABARZON, Laguna province excluding Calamba City and Pakil tallied 81.71% in phase 1 (250,577 children out of 306,670 target). Round 2 of the SPKP will be from September 14-27, targeting 1,185,005 children in the three (3) provinces (Laguna, Cavite, Rizal) in CALABARZON.

“To respond to the delay in barangay immunizations caused by the challenges of the pandemic and the demand for HCWs, we are training volunteers to do vaccinations against polio in close coordination with local community leaders in order to synchronize efforts for both polio and COVID,” said Dr. Maria Wilda Silva, DOH National Immunization Program Manager. “Aside from vaccination, surveillance is a very important factor in keeping polio at bay. The implementation of the SPKP campaign includes the immunization of children <5 years old and strengthening of the acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance,” she added.

This close partnership with LGUs has allowed for a strong surveillance-driven and proactive case finding approach that includes health information dissemination, capacity building, and filling in the resource gaps for communities most in need.

  This best case practice has acted as the blueprint for the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) protocol currently in place for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the CODE, we are working and collaborating with our partner LGUs and the people in our communities. If we were able to prevent polio and protect our children, we can also protect our families from COVID-19. We just need to do our part by following the minimum health     standards, immediately isolating ourselves when we have symptoms and not wait for confirmation that we are COVID-19-positive, and cooperating with BHERTs who go house to house”, emphasized Usec. Singh-Vergeire.