Parents lined up from sunrise with sleeping babies as the Philippines launched a Monday drive to vaccinate millions of children against polio, re-emerging nearly two decades after the last cases of the country.
Years of declining vaccination rates, compounded by a dengue vaccine’s botched roll-out, resulted in a September outbreak of preventable disease.
Miranda’s baby is among thousands that are vulnerable in the capital of about 13 million residents, where young children’s vaccination rates fell from 77% in 2016 to just 24% in June.
The mood at the Manila event was festive— with stalls of ice cream and music— but there are high stakes for the initiative.
Polio, which in rare cases can cause paralysis and can be fatal, has no cure and can be avoided only with multiple doses of oral or injectable vaccines.
Two cases were reported in September, the Philippines ‘ first since 2001 polio outbreaks, adding to a country’s woes already struck by deadly measles and dengue epidemic.
According to the World Health Organization, the risk of spreading the disease within the Philippines is high due to low immunization coverage partly blamed on a dengue vaccine controversy.
In 2016, the Philippines was the first country to use Dengvaxia in a mass campaign, but a failed roll-out led to reports that after being vaccinated, children had died.
According to a report led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a dramatic decline in vaccine confidence followed, with confidence plummeting from 93 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2018.
The outbreak of polio in the Philippines was traced back to the weakened form of the virus used in vaccines, which people excrete after consuming it for a while.
According to the WHO, if immunization rates are too low, this type can mutate and spread in the surrounding community.
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