The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF) on Friday lauded the Philippines’ successful eradication of polio, two years after the reemergence of the disease.
“WHO and UNICEF Philippines on behalf of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative commend the Department of Health (DoH), government agencies, partners, and civil society efforts that have ended the polio outbreak in the Philippines,” WHO and UNICEF said in a statement.
The two UN bodies said the DoH officially concluded the polio outbreak in the country on 3 June after detecting a zero case or any virus in a child or in the environment in the past 16 months.
They attributed the victory to the comprehensive outbreak response of the government, including the intensified immunization and surveillance activities in affected areas of the country.
“This is a major win for public health and is an excellent example of what collective efforts can attain, even in the midst of the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease) pandemic,” said WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe.
“We look forward for these efforts to be sustained for a strong and resilient immunization system, utilizing the investments made for polio outbreak response and Covid-19 vaccination to ensure all children are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases as the Philippines moves towards achieving Universal Health Care,” he added.
The Health department announced a polio outbreak in the country in September 2019 after nearly 20 years of being free of the disease.
As of February this year, the DoH said that about 73 percent of the target population or 3.4 million Filipino children have been vaccinated against infectious diseases such as measles, rubella, and polio under the government’s immunization program.
Polio is a highly infectious disease, crippling and sometimes can be fatal. Children under the age of five are particularly vulnerable to the disease.
To date, there is still no cure for polio but the disease can be prevented with multiple doses of polio vaccines.
The WHO said the disease remains endemic in only two countries — Afghanistan and Pakistan — and when it is eradicated there, polio will only be the second disease ever to be completely eradicated.