More than 1.6 million children have been vaccinated against polio in a two-week immunisation drive in the Philippines, where three cases of the disease have been confirmed since September, the health department on Wednesday said.
The children were from metropolitan Manila and four areas in the southern region of Mindanao, where a total of 1.8 million children under five years old were targeted to be covered by the campaign, the department said.
“We are elated over this high turnout of parents and caregivers, who had their young children immunised against polio,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.
“This means that the majority of them have overcome their distrust of our vaccines and this augurs well for our other immunisation programmes,” he added.
The vaccination campaign was launched on Oct. 14 as part of efforts to stop the spread of polio, which re-emerged in the country 19 years since the Philippines was declared free of the disease.
The first case, which was announced on Sept. 19, was a 3-year-old girl from the southern province of Lanao del Sur, while the second case was a 5-year-old boy from Laguna province, just south of Manila.
On Monday, the department said a 4-year-old girl from southern Maguindanao province also tested positive for the vaccine-derived poliovirus 2.
There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented with vaccination. While polio is rarely fatal, it causes paralysis.
The department’s vaccination drive aims to immunise a total of more than 6.6 million children under five years old. Another round is scheduled for January.
“Let us sustain this success throughout the succeeding rounds of vaccination, to stop the spread of the disease, and to make the country polio-free,” Duque urged.
Health experts have blamed low immunisation coverage, vaccine hesitancy, complacency, logistical concerns and busy lifestyles as some of the causes for disease outbreaks.