SouthCot prepares to immunize 114,000 infants and children vs polio

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 12 November) — Health personnel in South Cotabato province are targeting to cover around 114,000 infants and children during the Mindanao-wide massive immunization campaign against polio on November 25 to December 7.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., head of the South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), said Tuesday they are currently finalizing their preparations for the campaign, which is the first of the two rounds set until January by the Department of Health (DOH).

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

Dubbed “Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio,” the immunization drive is set from Nov. 25 to Dec. 7 while the second round is on Jan. 6 to 18, 2020.

Aturdido said the target 114,000 recipients, which are about 11.6 percent of the province’s population, are children aged five years-old and below that should be immunized against poliovirus, which causes the dreaded poliomyelitis.

“Of that number, were aiming to achieve a coverage rate of at least 95 percent,” he said in an interview with reporters.

Such rate is needed to achieve “herd immunity” or ensure protection for other unimmunized children in local communities, he said.

Genesis Navales, IPHO’s immunization coordinator, said health teams from the provincial and municipal health offices as well as barangay health stations will be deployed in parts of the province for the campaign.

As a strategy, she said they have set fixed immunization points, like barangay halls and health centers, while teams will also be assigned to conduct house-to-house vaccination.

She said they are also considering putting up vaccination posts in shopping malls, schools, terminals and other public convergence areas like parks.

“This is to ensure that we capture more eligible children and meet the 95 percent target,” Navales said.

During the immunization activity, she said children will get two drops of monovalent oral polio vaccine type 2.

She said children who will receive the vaccines will be marked with indelible inks on their little pinkies and will be recorded by health workers to ensure proper monitoring.

Navales urged parents to submit their children for immunization to ensure that they will be protected from the disease.

Polio was supposed to have been eradicated in the Philippines 19 years ago but made a comeback here.

“Regardless of the immunization status, all eligible children should get the vaccine. This is different from the routine vaccination,” she said.

Aturdido assured that the polio vaccines are safe and are proven effective based on studies made by the DOH and the World Health Organization.

He said vaccination is the best way to prevent any infection and the possible spread of polio, which he considers a big risk for the province following the recent confirmation of positive cases in nearby Maguindanao province.

“That is a big risk for us because Maguindanao is so close to the province. But (polio) is a vaccine-preventable disease so we should really focus on that,” he added.

The first round of synchronized vaccination 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 and third rounds will be held in all regions of Mindanao from November 25 until December 7 and from January 6 to 18, 2020. (MindaNews)