At a glance: Philippines

Immunization campaign seeks to prevent resurgence of polio in the Philippines

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Philippines/2005/Carreon
Health workers in the Philippines’ Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao go door-to-door to immunize more than 600,000 children against polio.

By Alexis Rodrigo

TAWI-TAWI, Philippines, 13 October 2005 – The Philippines has been polio-free since 2000, and the country is going to great lengths to keep it that way, especially now that more than 200 children have contracted the disease in neighbouring Indonesia.

To prevent the re-entry of polio virus into the country, the Philippines Department of Health, with support from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), has embarked on an immunization campaign.

“Polio is a virus that likes to travel,” said UNICEF Representative in the Philippines Nicholas Alipui. “As long as there is polio anywhere in the world, children in the Philippines can’t truly ever be free of polio.” Preventing a resurgence of polio in the Philippines is an essential step towards the ultimate goal of eradication.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Philippines/2005/Carreon
Isolation, poverty, and low immunization coverage have put children of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao at higher risk of contracting polio.

Targeting likely entry points

The campaign kicked off in late September, focusing largely on the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and Zamboanga City – both of which are close to Indonesia, and are considered possible entry points for the polio virus. One of the poorest areas in the Philippines, the Autonomous Region also has the lowest immunization coverage, and is affected by an ongoing armed conflict.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Philippines/2005/Carreon
Immunization is essential in order to keep the children of the Philippines and other countries safe from polio.
Taking advantage of a ceasefire, the campaign seeks to reach 650,000 children – 95 per cent of those in the Region – with vaccine, and to detect any possible polio cases at the earliest stage. UNICEF has provided $170,000 for the procurement of oral polio vaccines, training of vaccinators, and subsequent follow-up.
 
“If an importation [of polio] occurs here in the Philippines, it will be a major setback for the health system, and also for the whole effort here in the Philippines,” warned WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr. Jean-Marc Olivé.

 

 

Video

13 October 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on the Philippines polio immunization campaign to keep the country polio-free.

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