2 of 3 confirmed polio cases are from BARMM; 3rd is from Datu Piang

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 October) – Two of the three confirmed cases of polio in the country are from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) – the first in Marogong, Lanao del Sur and the third in Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

The Department of Health (DOH) announced on Monday that the third confirmed case of polio in the country, 19 years after its supposed eradication, is a four-year old girl from Datu Piang . The second polio case confirmed by the DOH was a four-year old boy in Laguna in Luzon.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III administers an oral polio vaccine to a child in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur on Monday, October 14, 2019 during the launch of Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio (Synchronized Polio Vaccination), a campaign to ensure children under five will be vaccinated against polio, a disease that was supposed to have been eradicated 19 years ago but made a comeback this year with the first confirmed case of polio coming from Lanao del Sur. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

A press release issued by the DOH on Monday quoted Health Secretary Francisco Duque as saying the girl did not receive any dose of the oral polio vaccine (OPV). Duque said vaccination of children under 5 will be held in Datu Piang on November 4 to 8.

Duque said the girl in Datu Piang was initially reported as a case of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) on September 26, 2019 at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center, as the patient exhibited signs and symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and muscle pain.

On October 24, stool samples sent to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases – Japan  tested positive for vaccine-derived poliovirus 2 (VDPV2). It also found that “the polio virus isolated was genetically linked to the VDPV2 from the confirmed Polio case in Marogong, Lanao del Sur.”

BARMM is composed of five provinces — Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi — and the cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato City, and 63 villages in North Cotabato. Cotabato City and the villages in North Cotabato voted for inclusion in the BARMM during the plebiscite early this year

Samples from another suspected case were sent for testing, awaiting results and confirmation. The DOH did not say where the suspected case is.

The DOH has scheduled a vaccination campaign in Datu Piang, on November 4-8 to vaccinate 4,254 children aged 0 to 59 months.

The DOH, World Health Organization, and United Nations Children’s Fund were set to meet with local officials of Datu Piang on October 28-29 “to discuss the outbreak response.”

Duque urged all parents and guardians “to ensure that all of your children are protected from all vaccine-preventable diseases.”

MindaNews sought Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim and Health Minister Saffrulah Dipatuan on the steps they have undertaken and the steps they would undertake especially given that two of three confirmed polio cases are from their region but as of 9 p.m. Monday, they had not sent a reply.

Ebrahim had earlier called on residents in the BARMM to have their children vaccinated.

This videotaped message of Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim on polio vaccination pops out when one visits the Bangsamoro website.

In a video done before the October 14 launch of the the “Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio” (Synchronized Polio Vaccination) campaign and posted in the Bangsamoro Government’s website, Ebrahim urged residents to have their children under 5 vaccinated.

He lamented the return of polio 19 years after its supposed eradication, noted how “unfortunate” it is that “the recent re-occurring cases were reported and the first was right here in the Bangsamoro.”

Shifting to Filipino, Ebrahim said that as Muslims, their obligation is to take care of their health, including ensuring vaccination against preventable diseases.

He cited a 2018 fatwa titled “The Legitimacy of Vaccination in Islamic Jurisprudence,” where several ulama (religious leader) said vaccination is halal (permissible) and urged Muslims to have their children vaccinated.

According to the DOH, polio is a highly contagious disease transmitted through the fecal-oral route, caused by the poliovirus and may result in life-long paralysis and even death, but is vaccine-preventable.

The vaccination campaign “aims to boost immunization coverage against polio by giving three doses of the oral polio vaccine to all children five years old and below, regardless of their immunization status.” It said full vaccination against the poliovirus is the best way to prevent the transmission of the disease.

The first round of the vaccination campaign started October 14 to 27 in the National Capital Region and in Mindanao’s Lanao del Sur, Davao City and Davao del Sur; the second in all regions of Mindanao from November 25 until December 7 and the third from January 6 to 18, 2020. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)