THE Department of Health (DOH) 7 aims to vaccinate 18,000 children under five years old in Mandaue City against poliomyelitis, a viral disease that invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.
The children living near the Butuanon River are considered high risk, said National Immunization Program (NIP) nurse coordinator Ruff Valdevieso.
This, as samples of water from the river tested positive of the poliovirus, according to the report released by the DOH- Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
Based on the 2016-2019 NIP data, only 31,038 of 40,166 children under five years old in Mandaue City were administered with three doses of the oral polio vaccine (OPV), and only 22,430 children received the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).
The data show that 9,128 children under five years old have yet to receive OPV, while 17,736 have yet to receive IPV.
In Cebu Province, the Provincial Health Office (PHO) reported that only 37,128 children under one year old received doses of OPV type one as of December 2019. There were also 41,883 that were given doses of the OPV type three, while 37,128 children had doses of IPV through injection.
Butuanon River crosses 10 barangays in Cebu City and 11 in Mandaue City.
Testing MCWD wells
As the river passes by Barangay Canduman in Mandaue City, the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD), with the DOH 7, conducted potability tests in its 16 production wells on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
Jose Daluz III, the newly appointed chairman of the MCWD board of directors, said their move was a precaution, adding that they do not want their consumers to fall ill.
He will meet with the MCWD managers on Thursday, Feb. 20, and find out the results of the tests.
Cebu City’s dilemma
The supply of polio vaccines in Cebu City Health Office (CHO) is not enough to immunize around 30,000 children below five years old, City Health Officer Daisy Villa said Wednesday.
Villa said the children living near Butuanon River will receive vaccines if they have signs of being ill.
Vice Mayor Michael Rama delivered his privilege speech during the City Council’s regular session on Wednesday, Feb. 19, urging the CHO to submit a detailed budget proposal for the anti-dengue and anti-polio campaign.
Rama included dengue in his speech, saying it is a health issue that tends to be forgotten when there are new diseases like the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-2019).
The CHO recorded three dengue deaths on Jan. 1 – Feb. 1, 2020.
Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes has a plan to relocate more than 800 informal settlers living in Butuanon River, while Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella said there was a need to transfer around 800 dwellers near the river.
Labella said the informal settlers will be prioritized after the construction of medium-rise buildings, a project that gained P230 million allocation.
A medium-rise building is set to rise on a 3.2-hectare lot in Barangay Quiot.
Although there are no cases of polio infection in Cebu yet, the Provincial Government has urged parents, especially those of newborn babies, to have their children vaccinated.
Local government units are also encouraged to clear riverbanks and slopes of debris, trash and illegal settlers to keep rivers and tributaries clean.
Valdevieso said the first dose of OPV can be initiated to the child who is six weeks old. The second dose will be given during the child’s 10th week from birth and the third dose will be administered during the child’s 14th week since birth.
“After the third dose of OPV, a dose of IPV will be administered to the child,” he said.
Thousands of children have not completely received the four doses of polio vaccines due to several factors.
The reasons, said Valdevieso, include the failure of parents to submit their children to health centers for vaccination due to either geographical distance, lack of time or simple negligence. Delay in the arrival of vaccine supplies is also a contributing factor, he said.
Valdevieso further said there are parents who are scared to have their children receive vaccine.
PHO head Cristina Giango said the Dengvaxia scare was a factor as to why there were fewer parents who had their children vaccinated against polio.
The PHO’s target for 2019 was to vaccinate around 74,015 children for each type of vaccine.
This means the PHO was able to vaccinate only 56.4 percent of its target last year for OPV type one; 56.59 percent of its target for OPV type three; and 50.16 percent of its target for IPV.
In 2018, the PHO had set a target of 84,147. They were able to vaccinate only around 56,093 children, or 66.6 percent of its target rate for OPV type one; 56,992, or 67.72 percent of its target for OPV type three; and 39,443, or 46.87 percent of its target rate for IPV.
Giango explained that they have lowered their target rate for 2019 compared to 2018 based on the 2010 Philippine Statistics Authority survey.
While the polio virus can strike at any age between 15 years old and below, Giango said children below 12 months old are prioritized since their age group has a higher infection rate.
“Information dissemination is really important, especially in debunking myths about vaccination,” she said in Cebuano.
Giango recalled that it took a lot of effort and work to educate parents about the importance of vaccination when she had served in a rural health unit in Camotes Islands.
Back then, Giango said the accomplishment rate for vaccinations was at least 90 percent. The vaccines in local health centers are given to the children for free.
In Mandaue City, Valdevieso said the Mandaue City Health Office has started its catch-up polio vaccination last Feb. 17 in response to the RITM report.
The health office was given two weeks to complete its task, and it was directed to submit a progress report to the DOH 7 every five days.
Poliomyelitis, or polio, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is a highly infectious viral disease that mainly affects children.
The virus is transmitted person-to-person and is spread mainly through the fecal-oral route. It can also spread through contaminated water or food.
To eradicate polio, the WHO recommends that countries conduct surveillance for cases of Acute flaccid paralysis, which is a sudden onset of paralysis or weakness in any part of the body of a child less than 15 years of age. (WBS, RTF & JJL )