The Philippines has been declared polio-free since October 2000. However, the country is currently at high-risk for poliovirus transmission.

For the past years, vaccination coverage for the third dose of the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) has fallen below 95%, the target required to ensure population protection against polio; the surveillance on Acute Flaccid Paralysis has been consistently poor; and the practice of open defecation and poor sanitation have been persisting in communities.

Furthermore, the Philippines is at risk for importation of poliovirus from neighboring countries where the virus has recently been found to have recirculated. In response, the Department of Health (DOH) identified priority areas which need to strengthen preventive measures against polio.

“Unless we act quickly in putting our surveillance on alert to detect signs of poliovirus transmission, in strengthening our immunization program, and in improving environmental hygiene and sanitation, we risk losing our polio-free status. Most importantly, we risk the health and future of our children due to a disease which otherwise could have been prevented,” Secretary Francisco Duque III emphasized.

Polio is a fatal and disabling disease caused by poliovirus, which is transmitted when there is poor environmental sanitation and hygiene. Complete vaccination is the best preventive measure against polio. All children under one year old should complete their three doses of OPV and one dose of the Inactivated Polio Vaccine.

DOH has planned measures to enhance polio prevention in Metro Manila. Among these measures are strengthened surveillance of children below 5 years old who developed sudden onset of muscle weakness or paralysis of the upper and lower extremities and a polio immunization campaign for all children under five years old.

DOH also called for all local governments to intensify the implementation of the Zero Open Defecation program and to strengthen the call for environmental sanitation and personal hygiene, such as frequent handwashing. Furthermore, DOH reiterated its advisory that the Manila Bay remains unsafe for swimming.

The synchronized polio immunization is expected to start in the City of Manila by mid- August 2019. After that, the immunization activity will expand to the entire National Capital Region and eventually to other priority regions.

“We repeat our call to parents and caregivers: Back to bakuna. Una sa lahat, bakuna. Let us prioritize complete vaccination of our children so they remain safe from vaccine- preventable diseases,” Secretary Duque concluded.