Two UN agencies have declared an end to the polio outbreak in the Philippines and praised the government’s efforts to fight the disease despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Philippine Department of Health ended its response to the polio outbreak on June 3 after 16 months of no cases were detected after a massive vaccination campaign and surveillance, UN agencies said in a joint statement on Friday. .
Government health officials backed by WHO and UNICEF then significantly expanded the anti-polio campaign, which continued despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. About 30 million doses of oral polio vaccine were given to children across the Philippines.
Dr. Ravindra Abesinghe, who represents the WHO in the Philippines, said, “This is a major victory for public health and a classic example of what collective efforts can achieve even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The polio vaccination campaign also faced another vaccine scare.
The government’s vaccination programs were hit in 2017 by a dengue fever vaccine made by French drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur, which some Philippine officials linked to the deaths of at least three children.
Sanofi said that a study has shown that the vaccine can increase the risk of serious dengue infection, after which the government stopped the dengue vaccination campaign. More than 830,000 children received the Dengvaxia vaccine under the campaign, which was launched in 2016 and halted in 2017.
Sanofi officials said the Dengvaxia vaccine is safe and will reduce dengue infection if the vaccination campaign continues.