March 21, 2023

The World Health Organization commended the Philippines for its polio program, which is being implemented on top of the government’s steady fight to contain and reduce the spread of the Covid-19.

In a letter signed by Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO cited the Department of Health’s efforts in prioritizing the preventive treatment of polio through immunization especially for children, despite the current challenges in managing the pandemic.

Health Sec. Francisco T. Duque III said the polio response must continue amid the Covid-19 crisis as he noted that the medical, financial, and relational pressures caused by the pandemic can make people neglect or dismiss their children’s potential exposure to polio.

“Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease and we cannot let our gains over the years go to waste by deprioritizing our polio response, despite the pandemic. Parents and caregivers must have their children vaccinated, while strictly adhering to the infection prevention and control protocols, as we cannot afford to overwhelm our health system with another outbreak,” he said.

The WHO letter also highlighted the DOH’s launch of the first phase of an integrated supplementary immunization activity, which combines the delivery of measles-rubella vaccine with the bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV).

It also noted the DOH’s simultaneous two-pronged objective to shield the people, communities, and health workers alike from the infection and transmission of the Covid-19 and vaccine-preventable diseases.

“We admire the department’s ability to sustain and reinforce the National Immunization Program (NIP) and vaccine-preventable disease surveillance system by securing regular operational funding and appointing qualified staff at all levels to ensure NIP performance, sustainability, and preparedness for multipurpose national needs. We look forward to sharing the lessons learned in this challenging time,” Ghebreyesus said.

Duque thanked the vaccinators who braved the harsh conditions in travelling to far-flung areas, “You have set the bar for selfless service – trudging through jungles and scaling mountains to protect our children.”

“We will not allow Covid-19 to stymie our efforts nor distract us from our regular programs that protect our people. Through our continued, collective effort, I am confident that we will be able to swiftly and effectively prevent Polio and other vaccine-preventable illnesses from affecting our countrymen, especially our children.”  – Press release