IN line with World Polio Day on Sunday, the Department of Health (DoH), with partners World Health Organization (WHO), Unicef, and Rotary International, encouraged parents to vaccinate their children 0against preventable diseases, especially polio.

Polio is a highly infectious, crippling, and sometimes fatal disease, and children under the age of five are the most vulnerable to the disease.

Last October 13, the DoH launched the catch-up immunization campaign in Metro Manila to vaccinate children under two years old who missed their polio jabs.

In June, the country announced the end of the polio outbreak following the 18-month outbreak response to vaccinate over 11 million children — many of whom received polio drops during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"In the Philippines, children under one year old receive their primary doses of the polio vaccines during routine immunization — three doses of polio drops and one dose of inactivated polio vaccine. However, in 2020, nearly half a million Filipino children missed out on oral polio drops for routine immunization due to challenges in accessing health services during the pandemic," the DoH said.

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Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd explained the need to vaccinate children against preventable diseases, stressing that the vaccines are safe and available for free in local health centers.

"While we have successfully eradicated polio, we have to ensure that there will never be an outbreak again and it begins with vaccination. We call on the parents to ensure that your child gets their routine immunization so they can be protected against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases. This month, the DoH has launched the 'Catch-up Routine Immunization' to ensure delivery of National Immunization Program services to children," he said.

WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe affirmed the call of Duque. "We should do everything necessary to prevent another outbreak of polio or any other vaccine-preventable disease such as measles, rubella, diphtheria. The lives and health of our children are at stake. Our plea to parents: please ensure that your children have received all the routine childhood vaccines including polio doses as we prepare for them to go back to schools and early learning centers," Abeyasinghe said.

Rotary International Zone 10A (Philippines) End Polio Now Coordinator Mary Anne Solomon called on intensifying campaigns on raising awareness and funds for polio, as the world is on its way to completely eradicating the disease — which is now endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Aside from vaccination efforts, the government and its partners are also working on strengthening environmental and Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance throughout the country to detect the poliovirus and prevent it from spreading.