The Department of Health reported 25 polio infections in the Philippines from September 2019 to June 2020. Sixteen of whom experienced permanent disability.
Dr. Wilda Silva, program manager of the DOH immunization program, said polio immunization was hindered in NCR and Calabarzon in the first semester of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Philippines has been polio-free for 19 years until DOH confirmed September 14, 2019, that a 3-year-old girl had the disease and “now apparently well but with residual paralysis.”
According to UNICEF and WHO, the poliovirus type 2 would likely spread rapidly due to the “low level of population immunity” against the virus. The organizations also consider the virus as a public health emergency.
WHO and UNICEF pointed out that the poliovirus resurfaced due to persistently low routine immunization coverage.
The drop in polio immunization was traced back to the Dengvaxia vaccine scare in 2017. The government approved the school-based dengue vaccination in 2015. As of today, there are 145 deaths (142 children and three adults) allegedly caused by Dengvaxia.
Meanwhile, on August 25, the Africa Regional Certification Commission certified the WHO African Region as wild polio-free after four years without a case.
Polio in the Philippines
WHO added, “five of the six WHO regions – representing over 90% of the world’s population – are now free of the wild poliovirus, moving the world closer to achieving global polio eradication.”
To date, only two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, continue to see wild poliovirus transmission.
“Ending wild polio virus in Africa is one of the greatest public health achievements of our time and provides powerful inspiration for all of us to finish the job of eradicating polio globally,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “I thank and congratulate the governments, health workers, community volunteers, traditional and religious leaders, and parents across the region who have worked together to kick wild polio out of Africa.”
“During a challenging year for global health, the certification of the African region as wild poliovirus-free is a sign of hope and progress that shows what can be accomplished through collaboration and perseverance,” said Rotary International President Holger Knaack.