MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 14 October) — Three more children with “polio-like symptoms” were admitted to a local hospital here as health officials launched a province-wide vaccination on Monday to eradicate the crippling infectious disease.
Lanao del Sur is where the first confirmed case of polio was reported 19 years after its supposed eradication in the country.
Dr. Shalimar Sani Rakiin, chief of the Amai Pakpak Medical Center said the three children — all siblings and all under five years old — were admitted to the hospital last week.
“All exhibited a weakening of their leg muscles which are symptoms of the polio virus,” Rakiin appraised Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other officials here.
Duque immediately asked for stool samples to be sent to the DOH Research Institute for Tropical medicine to confirm if these are really new cases of polio.
“The confirmatory test results are important because not all symptoms of weakening leg muscles are polio,” Duque said.
Synchronized Polio Kontra
Duque arrived here Monday with World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund representatives to launch the “Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio” (Synchronized Polio Vaccination) campaign to vaccinate all children under five in Lanao del Sur and other high-risk areas in Mindanao and the National Capital Region.
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 is scheduled on October 14 to 27 in the National Capital Region and in Mindanao’s Lanao del Sur, Davao City and Davao del Sur; the second and third rounds in all regions of Mindanao from November 25 until December 7 and from January 6 to 18, 2020.
The UNICEF brought 197,944 doses of vaccines for Lanao del Sur’s 167,749 children last Oct. 10.
Duque said the children in the province are vulnerable especially in houses with no toilets. A DOH study made in 2007 revealed that only ten houses out of 100 have toilets.
Duque said the penetration rate of vaccination in the province is low at 60 percent.
“This is not high enough to ensure children in Lanao del Sur against polio and other diseases,” he said.
The DOH scheduled the first round of vaccination in Lanao del Sur, Marawi City, Davao del Sur, and Davao City from October 14 and will be expanded to the whole of Mindanao on November 25, 2019. The last round will be on January 6, 2020.
In the National Capital Region, the second fround of vaccination was held on October 14 with the third round on November 25.
Lanao del Sur Board member Abdulhamid Amerbitor said one of the reasons of the poor acceptance of vaccination among Maranao parents is fear.
Amerbitor said the parents fear the vaccines will make their children sick.
He said another reason is many parents mistakenly think the vaccines did not pass halal standards.
“We have to go house to house to dispel these beliefs. It is very tiring,” Amerbitor said.
Amerbitor said the news that a three-year-old girl from Marugong town tested positive for the polio virus scared most parents.
“Maybe they will allow their children to be vaccinated this time because it is not easy to have a sick child in the family,” he said.
Dr. Alinader Minalang, Lanao del Sur provincial health officer said the test conducted along Marugong river near where the child lives, had yielded negative for poliovirus.
The child originally resided in Quiapo, Manila where health officials suspect she may have contracted the highly infectious disease.
Minalang said the girl’s parents could not produce any yellow booklet that would indicate the child was vaccinated in Quiapo.
He said the family settled in Marugong in 2017 and because of her age was not included in the anti-polio system of the province.
Dr. Saffrullah Dipatuan, Health minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said they have given orders to their field commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces to ensure the health personnel are welcome to their camps when they come to vaccinate their children.
Dipatuan said they field commanders vowed to cooperate. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)