Can’t lead charge?

September 22, 2019

The sad story is that a dreaded disease largely wiped out two decades ago is back with a vengeance.

And please don’t use the Dengue vaccine scare as an excuse for the drop in polio immunization rates.

Diseases and infections are clear, present, constant, and verifiable threats to public health and safety that should be fought continuously, simultaneously.

It is bad enough that Health authorities are unable to combat multiple health threats at the same time.

Worse, they seem to be able to marshal the political will to roll back epidemics or outbreaks only with the private sector or non-government organization on its side.

Aren’t they supposed to be leading the charge with all the limitless stockpile of medical ammunition and resources at their command?

The private sector and NGOs are traditionally second liners in these undertakings.

And yet the Department of Health even unabashedly signed a memorandum of agreement with Rotary International's 10 districts to heighten polio awareness and intensify its vaccination campaign against the disease.

This, after the DoH confirmed on Thursday the re-emergence of polio in the country, 19 years after the World Health Organization  has declared the Philippines polio-free in 2000.

"This is another challenge to overcome as a nation. The task now not only falls on the DoH but the collective national interagency efforts, local government units and Rotary International," Health Sec. Francisco Duque III said during the MoA signing.

Duque said the DoH intensifies its health promotion activities focusing on sanitation and hygiene, and prepares for a rapid response polio vaccination campaign as the Rotary Districts would provide support through fundraising, advocacy and volunteer recruitment.

In 2018, the DoH has identified 12 out of the 17 regions in the country as high-risk areas for polio reemergence.

The National Capital Region is one of the identified regions with a high-risk of re-infection due to a number of factors, including low polio vaccination coverage coupled with poor surveillance of polio symptoms, ongoing practice of open defecation, and poor sanitary practices in communities.

Oral polio vaccine coverage in the NCR has been steadily decreasing from 77.25 percent in 2016 to 23.45 percent in the second quarter of 2019.