DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 November) – The number of confirmed cases of poliovirus in Mindanao has risen to six out of seven nationwide since the re-emergence of the highly infectious but preventable disease in September.
At least four of the six are from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday announced that the three new cases are children from Maguindanao, Cotabato City and North Cotabato, two of them not vaccinated at all and the other without the third dose.
The first confirmed case of polio, announced by the DOH on September 19, is a three-year old girl from Marogong in Lanao del Sur, the second, announced on September 20, is a five-year old boy from Calamba, Laguna and the third, a four-year old girl from Datu Piang in Maguindanao, was announced on October 28.
The fourth confirmed case, also from Mindanao, was announced by Health Secretary Francisco Duque during a media interview on November 5. But there were no details about the case except that the child afflicted is “from Mindanao.”
Of the six confirmed cases in Mindanao, four are from the Bangsamoro region: two from Maguindanao, one from Lanao del Sur, and one from Cotabato City which voted yes to inclusion in the BARMM in the January 2019 plebiscite but has yet to be formally turned over. The two others are from North Cotabato and from a still unnamed area in Mindanao.
The DOH on September 19 announced that polio was confirmed to have re-emerged 19 years after its eradication in the country.
It said polio, an infectious disease which spreads rapidly, can cause paralysis, and on rare occasions, can be fatal, has no cure but it can be prevented “with multiple doses of polio vaccine that have long been proven safe and effective.”
“A single confirmed polio case of vaccine-derived polio virus type 2 (VDPV2) or two positive environmental samples that are genetically linked isolated in two different locations is considered an epidemic in a polio free country,” the DOH said on September 19.
On November 20, the DOH said samples from the three new cases that were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan came out positive for poliovirus.
The three new cases – a two-year old girl from Maguindanao, a one-year old boy from Cotabato City and a four-year old girl from North Cotabato – were admitted to the Cotabato Regional Medical Center in Cotabato City.
The girl from Maguindanao (the DOH did not name the town) had fever and weakness in both legs, the boy from Cotabato City had fever, cough and weakness in both legs, while the girl from North Cotabato had fever, weakness of the right leg, neck, and facial muscles.
The girl from Maguindanao and the boy from Cotabato City were not vaccinated with the polio vaccine, while the third received incomplete doses, the DOH said.
The first confirmed case in Lanao del Sur and the third confirmed case in Datu Piang were not vaccinated.
Health Secretary Duque said it is “unacceptable that more children are falling victim to this vaccine-preventable disease.”
“We are more determined than ever to make sure that no child shall be missed during the next round of the Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio in Metro Manila and Mindanao,” he said.
“We should not be satisfied with our children receiving only one or two doses of the polio vaccine. Let us ensure that they receive the complete doses of the vaccine to fully protect them from Polio,” Duque added.The oral polio vaccine (OPV) has three doses.
In October, the DOH in coordination with local government units and concerned national agencies, and with the support of World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and other partners, launched “Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio” (Synchronized Polio Vaccination) to protect every child under the age of 5 in areas at risk.
The Sabayang Patak in October reported a 96% coverage among children 0-59 months old from the 17 cities/municipality in the National Capital Region (NCR), the DOH said.
It added that Davao del Sur recorded a 92% coverage from its 10 city/municipalities while Lanao del Sur reported an 85% coverage from 40 city/municipalities.
“We are reiterating to all parents and caregivers to have their 0-59 months children immunized with the polio vaccine from November 25 to December 7,” Duque said.
Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim had earlier called on residents in the BARMM to have their children vaccinated.
In a videotaped message before the October 14 launch of the “Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio,” Ebrahim urged residents to have their children under 5 vaccinated.
As Muslims, he said, 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 leaders) said vaccination is halal (permissible) and urged Muslims to have their children vaccinated.
The synchronized 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.”
The first round of the campaign was 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 in all regions of Mindanao from November 25 until December 7 and the third from January 6 to 18, 2020.
Vaccination of children under 5 was also held in Datu Piang, Maguindanao on November 4 to 8, following the confirmation of the third case coming from that town. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)