HEALTH AUTHORITIES are targeting a wider coverage in Mindanao, especially in the Bangsamoro region, for the second round of the polio vaccination program on Nov. 25 to Dec. 7. The first round was conducted Oct. 14–27 covering Lanao del Sur, including Marawi City, Davao del Sur, and Davao City. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, World Health Organization (WHO) representative in the Philippines, said they are expecting more challenges in the second round, particularly in terms of reaching remote areas. “Because these areas are sometimes difficult to access,” he said in a media forum last week. He stressed, however, that they are determined to have as wide a coverage as possible. “If children are unprotected, we could possibly see a resurgence of polio. So if you want to break this transmission, we have to work to very high coverage and this can be only achieved if all of other partners join hands together,” he said. The vaccination program is being implemented by the Department of Health (DoH) with support from WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund. Mr. Abeyasinghe added that to achieve high coverage, the local government units (LGUs) must also implement a monthly vaccination program. For the long term, LGUs need to be at the forefront of a routine immunization program. “The ultimate aim is to restore every high level of coverage in the campaign,” he said.
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III also called for assistance from the Philippine Pediatric Society chapters in Mindanao. “For high coverage in Mindanao, 95% of children need to be vaccinated… In some areas in Mindanao like BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao)… we saw a very poor implementation of the campaign,” Mr. Duque said. Four polio cases in the country have been confirmed by the DoH, after almost two decades of being free from the disease. Three of these are in Mindanao, with the first two in the provinces of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, while the third was not specified where. The other was in Laguna in Luzon. — Maya M. Padillo