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Health Secretary Francisco III administers polio vaccine to a child after the ceremonial signing of Agreement with the Rotary International to strengthen drive against polio. / DOH

DOH, Rotary agree to end polio

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The Department of Health (DOH) has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Rotary International's 10 districts to heighten polio awareness and intensify its vaccination campaign against the disease.

This, after the DOH confirmed on Thursday the re-emergence of polio in the country, 19 years after the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Philippines polio-free in 2000.

"This is another challenge to overcome as a nation. The task now not only falls on the DOH but the collective national interagency efforts, local government units and Rotary International," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during the MOA signing.

Duque said the DOH intensifies its health promotion activities focusing on sanitation and hygiene, and prepares for a rapid response polio vaccination campaign as the Rotary Districts will provide support through fundraising, advocacy and volunteer recruitment.

In 2018, the DOH has identified 12 out of the 17 regions in the country as high-risk areas for polio reemergence.

The National Capital Region (NCR) is one of the identified regions with a high-risk of re-infection due to a number of factors including low polio vaccination coverage coupled with poor surveillance of polio symptoms, ongoing practice of open defecation, and poor sanitary practices in communities.

Oral polio vaccine coverage in the NCR has been steadily decreasing from 77.25 percent in 2016 to 23.45 percent in the second quarter of 2019.

To mitigate the risk, the DOH – Metro Manila Center for Health Development will conduct three rounds of supplemental oral polio immunization to ensure protection against polio among children under five years old.

The DOH will also strengthen surveillance of children below five years old, who developed sudden onset of muscle weakness or paralysis of the upper and lower extremities, intensify implementation of the Zero Open Defecation Program, and strengthen environmental sanitation and personal hygiene.

“It is unthinkable that a child will suffer from a disease that is highly preventable by vaccination. Together let us all work to protect our children and ensure their future,” Duque said.

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