Tuesday, February 23, 2016

3 Bicol provinces gear for oral polio vaccine catch-up immunization week
By Gina V. Rodriguez

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 22 (PNA) -- Albay, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon in the Bicol Region will be among 65 provinces in the country where the nationwide oral polio vaccine (OPV) catch-up immunization of the Department of Health (DOH) will be conducted on February 22-26.

Hundreds of barangay health workers, midwives and nurses deployed in various rural health units will be in fixed posts such as barangay health centers, health stations and covered basketball courts in the morning and will go from house to house in the afternoon to administer the oral dose, said Dr. Gladys Escote, DOH Albay officer.

She said children, 0-59 months or those under five years of age, will be given the supplementary dose, regardless of whether they have completed the three doses and booster dose in the routine OPV immunization program in the barangays.

In the routine immunization program, a one-and-a-half-month-old child takes a dose of OPV with intervals of 30 days for the succeeding second and third doses.

On the third month, the child takes a booster dose.

Escote, in an interview Monday, said their data showed these three of the six Bicol provinces (that also include Masbate, Catanduanes and Camarines Norte) have “low OPV3 coverage.”

She said the low OPV3 coverage is due to the mothers' or caregivers’ failure to bring their infants to health centers for the third dose of OPV because of “increased mobility” or transfer of work to other areas of the country or overseas.

The activity seeks to meet a 95-percent OPV coverage in the targeted areas.

Escote added these areas included in the catch-up immunization also have reported cases of “acute flaccid paralysis (AFP)” characterized by the weakening of the lower extremities.

The DOH, in a memorandum circular issued to its regional health officials on Jan. 18, said the catch-up immunization hopes to mitigate the risk of a wild polio virus outbreak in the Philippines after it has been identified as among the countries at highest risk due to its “low OPV3 coverage and inadequate surveillance for AFP.”

“While the world is getting closer to globally eradicate polio, high population immunity needs to be maintained in polio-free countries to prevent re-infection,” the DOH said.

It said the number of polio cases caused by wild polio viruses has declined to 99 percent in 2015 compared to 1988.

Currently Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries reporting wild polio virus outbreaks.

Escote said the catch-up immunization project is a preparation to the nationally synchronized switch from the trivalent OPV (tOPV) to the bivalent OPV (bOPV ) on April 27.

She said the bivalent vaccine to be used in the country by April 27 will have only two kinds of weakened virus content as the third type of virus content in the trivalent vaccine has already been eliminated or “deemed negligible” because of the mass immunizations and routine campaigns in countries where the virus used to be prevalent.

The DOH Albay official said the switch from trivalent to bivalent OPV is a worldwide activity of the World Health Organization scheduled from March to May 1 this year, the season when the virus is seen to be scarce or weak.

“The Philippines chose April 27 to make the (synchronized) switch,” she said.

Escote said the goal of the catch-up immunization campaign is also to use up the presently available tOPV before use of the bOPV is enforced.

She said that in Albay, there are 1,000 vials of tOPV available for the catch up campaign and each vial has 20 drops that will be good for 20 children. (PNA) FFC/FGS/GVR/CBD