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Senator wants stronger vaccination campaign

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Senator Pia Cayetano on has called on the Department of Health (DOH) to step up its information drive in convincing parents to get their children vaccinated amid the recent declaration of a polio epidemic in the country.

The senator made the call after the DOH reported that a three-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur was recently diagnosed with polio, marking the re-emergence of the disease in the country after two decades.

"As public servants, we are tasked to ensure that the welfare and health of our children are properly protected. So if we need to shake things up a bit, I think we really should," she said, citing the need for more enticing information drives to keep promoting the government's immunization program.

"We deprive the life of these children -- a life that could be spent climbing trees, playing sports, or enjoying other physical activities -- if we let their mothers disregard the importance of vaccination," she added.

Cayetano sounded the alarm over the Philippines losing its polio-free status, noting the risks brought about by the country's deteriorating vaccination rates, particularly for the poliovirus.

She reiterated that if mothers continue to refuse having their children immunized, the spread of the virus could just be "a snap of a finger away."

"All these diseases have already been eradicated or are close to being eradicated because we've had a successful vaccination program throughout the decades. But now, mothers are suddenly not bringing their children to the health centers to be vaccinated," she said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said his department would intensify its vaccination campaign against polio after confirming the re-emergence of the disease in the country.

“Polio is re-emerging in the country, 19 years after the Philippines has been declared polio-free by the World Health Organization in 2000. Polio is an infectious disease, which spreads rapidly, causing paralysis and on rare occasions can be fatal,” Duque said.

He said that the polio virus has been detected in samples taken from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao as part of the regular environmental surveillance.

The samples were tested by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and were verified by the Japan National Institute for Infectious Diseases and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In response, he said, the DOH is in close coordination with the local government units, national agencies, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in implementing a series of synchronized oral polio vaccinations to protect every child under five years old. 

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