On World Polio Day, progress in child immunization in the Philippines remains fragile
UNICEF Philippines urges the government and immunization partners to continue intensifying catch-up vaccination efforts to prevent the resurgence of this infectious, life-threatening disease, especially in vulnerable communities with limited access to essential health services.
9-month-old Zainuddin receives a vaccine against polio from a nurse at the Marantao Rural Health Unit, Marantao, BARMM
MANILA, 05 November 2023 — The World Health Organization Polio Risk Assessment for 2022-2023 shows that the Philippines is still considered at risk for polio outbreaks, with 24 out of 81 provinces considered high-risk. UNICEF Philippines, on the occasion of World Polio Day, urges the government and immunization partners to continue intensifying catch-up vaccination efforts to prevent the resurgence of this infectious, life-threatening disease, especially in vulnerable communities with limited access to essential health services.
The Department of Health conducted the intensified immunization campaign called Chikiting Ligtas in May, but only reached 81 per cent instead of the 95 per cent target for polio vaccination. Notably, the target for polio immunization was reduced from 11.5 million to over three million due to challenges in vaccine supply. The Philippines has been struggling to meet the ideal 95 percent routine coverage rate for children because of governance challenges, sub-optimal demand, and persistent missed opportunities. These problems were further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Philippines has made progress against polio thanks to the enormous efforts of health workers and community influencers, backed by strong-willed national and sub-national leaders, donors and committed supporters and partners. This progress needs to be maintained and more efforts are needed to increase the immunization coverage to avoid future polio outbreaks. We can and must do more to meet our vaccination targets of 95 per cent coverage through strengthening routine immunization under the Primary Health Care (PHC) platform and catch-up immunization activities. Committing to increased vaccination coverage is also an investment in stronger, more resilient health systems. Every child deserves the best health and protection from disease,” UNICEF Philippines Deputy Representative Behzad Noubary says.
Globally, UNICEF helps vaccinate over 400 million children against polio every year to eradicate polio worldwide. In collaboration with governments, partners and approved manufacturers, UNICEF supplies one billion doses of polio vaccines annually which includes management of the cold chain and logistics to ensure countries receive safe and adequate quantities of the polio vaccine.
UNICEF also leads in building trust in vaccines, supporting community health workers and mobilisers visit parents and caregivers, listen to their concerns, and clarify their doubts, while also engaging with local officials, religious leaders, and influencers.
In the Philippines, UNICEF works with all levels of government from the national to the barangay level to strengthen health systems by providing cold chain equipment, strengthening the immunization supply chain, training health workers and social mobilizers, promoting innovation in data and information, increasing demand, and giving dedicated support to local governments.
During the first national Immunization Summit 2023 hosted by the Department of Health, UNICEF Philippines, and World Health Organization Philippines, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa renewed the agency’s commitment to “close the immunization gap” by enjoining all sectors of society. In its two-year immunization acceleration plan, the Department of Health committed to achieve the status of fully immunized child to 90 percent by 2025.