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WHO says polio is no longer present in the Philippines

by drbyos

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Manila (AFP)

Polio is no longer present in the Philippines almost 18 months after its reappearance, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday after a large vaccination campaign across the archipelago.

The first cases of polio were recorded in September 2019, the first in nearly two decades.

The Philippine government quickly launched a massive campaign to immunize millions of children against this contagious disease that can lead to paralysis and even death.

In total, since its reappearance, at least 17 people have been infected but health authorities said they had not detected the presence of the virus in a child or in the environment for 16 months.

“We are celebrating being polio-free,” said Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative in the Philippines.

More than 80% of children who, until this campaign, were not vaccinated, are now, welcomed Mr. Abeyasinghe, a rate that puts an end to any contamination.

The reappearance of the virus in 2019 came shortly after epidemics of measles and dengue that had killed more than a thousand people a few years earlier.

Like those in 2001, the 2019 cases were linked to viruses from vaccine strains. This attenuated form becomes more dangerous after a mutation that occurs when vaccination coverage is low and gives the virus the opportunity to multiply, according to the WHO.

On Friday, the Philippine health authorities now hope to meet such a success for the vaccination campaign against the Covid-19.

Only around 1.6 million people, or just over 1% of the population, received the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine, a slowness attributed in particular to shortages in terms of supply.

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“Many studies attest to a low rate of confidence in vaccination, but this campaign (against polio) has proved the opposite,” said Rosario Vergeire, Under Secretary for Health.

Confidence in the vaccination had plummeted in the Philippines after a controversy over a dengue vaccine, after the vaccine’s maker, French pharmaceutical group Sanofi, was revealed a year later that the vaccine could worsen symptoms in uninfected people previously by the virus.

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