The Philippines is once again polio-free, the World Health Organization said on Friday, following a successful vaccination campaign that has raised hopes of a COVID-19 vaccination in a country stricken by Jobs’ mistrust.
Polio re-emerged in the country in 2019, nearly two decades after the last cases of polio were detected, triggering a nationwide effort to vaccinate millions of children against the crippling disease.
At least 17 people were infected, but health officials said they had not detected the virus in any children or the environment in the past 16 months.
“We are celebrating freedom from polio,” said Rabindra Abayasinghe, WHO representative in the Philippines.
More than 80 percent of unvaccinated children were vaccinated in the nationwide effort, which Abeysinghe called “enough to disrupt transmission.”
The 2019 outbreak began soon after the deadly dengue fever and measles epidemic, and vaccination coverage fell partly due to the failed rollout of a dengue shot a few years ago.
Polio is highly contagious and can cause paralysis and even death. There is no known cure.
The virus, which re-emerged in the Philippines, was genetically mutated from a weakened strain of wild polio that is contained in the oral vaccine used worldwide to control the disease.
Philippine health officials expect the success of the polio vaccination effort to be replicated in the rollout of COVID-19 jabs.
Only about 1.6 million people – or just over one percent of the population – have been fully vaccinated against the disease. Glacial speed has been blamed on supply shortages and security fears.
“We have a number of surveys that show that vaccine confidence is low, but this (polio) campaign has proven otherwise,” Under Secretary of Health Rosario Vergier said.
“Hopefully when we do our COVID-19 vaccinations and the supplies are ready, these kinds of activities and these kinds of efforts will be parallel and patterned.”
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