Polio has disappeared from the Philippines, WHO says

Polio is no longer present in the Philippines, nearly eighteen months after its reappearance, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Friday (June 11th), following a massive vaccination campaign through the archipelago. The first cases of polio were recorded in September 2019, the first for nearly twenty years.

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 sixteen months.

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Success of the vaccination campaign

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. More than 80% of children who, until this campaign, were not vaccinated are now, welcomed the representative of the WHO in the Philippines, Rabindra Abeyasinghe, a rate which makes it possible to put an end to any contamination.

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.

Controversy around the dengue vaccine

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 supply shortages. “Many studies show a low level of confidence in vaccination, but this campaign [contre la polio] proved the opposite “, said Maria Rosario Vergeire, Under-Secretary for Health.

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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. The reappearance of polio in 2019 had indeed come shortly after epidemics of measles and dengue which had killed more than a thousand people a few years earlier.

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The World with AFP

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