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Philippines ends polio outbreak almost two years after its resurgence, says DOH and WHO

By Bim Santos Published Jun 11, 2021 2:35 pm

The Philippines has successfully stamped out a resurgence of the polio disease that triggered an outbreak almost two years ago.

Decades after the Philippines have been free of the disease, the DOH declared a polio outbreak in September, 2019. The WHO and other experts then attributed the resurgence to low immunization rates brought about in part by vaccine hesitancy.

In a joint statement, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) lauded the Philippines for ending the outbreak.

Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative to the Philippines, said the eradication “is a major win for public health.”

In an online briefing with the DOH and other agencies, Abeyasinghe said the victory is made more meaningful by the challenges that the stakeholders overcame to ramp up immunization, which includes the onset of typhoons and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a testament of the tremendous work that has been undertaken to close this polio outbreak,” Abeyasinghe said.

In terms of numbers, Abeyasinghe said that following the 2019 outbreak, 30 million doses of oral vaccines have been administered; 11 million children have been vaccinated, with many receiving multiple doses; and 13 vaccination campaign rounds were organized.

Abeyasinghe added that the country should maintain “strong surveillance systems to ensure the end of this outbreak is sustained.”

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, during the same briefing, said the WHO has sent a letter to the DOH on June 3 “to officially announce the closure of the polio outbreak.”

(Banner and thumbnail photo from DOH presentation)