- After 19 years of being declared polio-free, the Philippines has two confirmed cases, leading to the DOH declaring a polio epidemic
- Vaccines are completely safe; DOH urges the public to vaccinate their children
- The PPS and the PIDSP have released guidelines for polio vaccination
After 19 years of being declared polio-free, the Philippines has two confirmed cases of poliomyelitis. It was reported that a 3-year-old child from Lanao del Sur was diagnosed with the disease. And, it was followed by another confirmed case from a 5-year-old child from Laguna Province. The reports of positive cases lead to the Department of Health (DOH) to declaring a polio epidemic on Sept 19.
“A single confirmed polio case of vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 or two positive environmental samples that are genetically linked isolated in two different locations is considered an epidemic in a polio-free country,” the agency said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes polio as “a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease.” They further explain that the disease “is caused by any one of the three related viruses called poliovirus types 1, 2, and 3. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis.”
Before the news of the outbreak, the virus was already detected in water sewage samples in Manila and Davao. According to a report by The Philippine Star, the country is dealing with right now is a mutated form of vaccine-derived polio (VDP) Type two, which was supposedly eradicated globally in 2015. However, it is believed that the strain has changed over time.
The Philippine Star continues to report that the DOH has already requested the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide the Philippines with “monovalent vaccine” for Type 2 poliovirus. It is expected to arrive in early October 2019 and will be included among the ongoing mass vaccination campaign.
IS THE POLIO VACCINE SAFE?
For years, the global effort to eradicate polio has slashed infections from more than 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 33 last year, according to the data provided by the WHO. Only Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan have failed to stop transmission.
Oyun Dendevnorov, the Philippines’ representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), called the re-emergence of the disease in the country as “deeply disconcerting.” “As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio,” she continues in a statement released by the WHO.
The nationwide panic that was felt during the Dengvaxia scare, more and more people have opted not to vaccinate their children and their loved ones. According to Rolando Enrique Domingo, an undersecretary of DOH, immunisation coverage in the country is currently at only 70 percent, below the recommended rate of 95 percent.
The DOH urges the public to vaccinate their children, and assures everyone that the vaccines are perfectly safe, says Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. “The polio vaccine is very safe. We have nothing to worry about because the polio vaccine has been used for a long time, and it has gone through tests that prove its safety, efficacy, and affordability.”
“Please, I beg of you, for the sake of our children, take care of them. Make sure they have proper hygiene and they get vaccinated,” Duque continued.
PROTECTING YOUR CHILD AGAINST POLIO
There is no cure for polio and the best and the only way to protect children from this infectious disease is to have them vaccinated. In a response to the recent outbreak, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) have released a few guidelines regarding the administration of vaccines, both the oral polio vaccine (OPV) and inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). The following are standard recommendations for infants, children, and adolescents up to the age of 18 years of age.
- There are three doses of the primary series for polio vaccinations for both OPV and IPV.
- Two booster doses are recommended
- For children who are under the age of four and have yet to receive their second additional booster, an additional dose of either vaccine may be given now
- Additional guidance for individuals 4 years of age or older:
For unvaccinated children: Three doses of either OPV or IPV should be given at 0 [after] one, and [after] six months
For children who are completely unvaccinated: There is no need to re-administer the previous doses; the remaining doses may be given as if a lapse did not occur. The minimum interval between dose 1 and dose 2 is four weeks.
The guidelines also noted that those who have completed the recommended number of doses at appropriate intervals do not need further doses. However, it is acceptable, especially for long-term immunity, to receive additional doses of polio vaccine should the individual would choose to do so. – Cosmo/Rappler/Aljazeera