Going abroad? DOH mulls mandatory oral polio vaccine
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) will soon require Filipinos heading to countries with reported cases of polio to take oral vaccine.
“Currently, the stand of DOH upon recommendation of other agencies is to require outgoing, outbound Filipinos to submit themselves to oral polio vaccine,” DOH spokesperson Lyndon Lee Suy said in a press conference on Thursday, May 15.
Although the Philippines is still polio-free, DOH is already developing guidelines for the proposal together with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the Department of Labor and Employment.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared polio as a public health emergency as new cases of the disease began surfacing and spreading across borders.
Polio, a crippling and potentially fatal viral disease that mainly affects children under the age of 5, has come close to being beaten as a result of a 25-year effort. (READ: WHO certifies India, 10 Asian nations polio-free)
Today, the virus is considered endemic in only 3 countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – although WHO said 3 new importations of the virus were detected this year, from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Syria to Iraq and Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea.
For now, while they iron out the guidelines, Lee Suy encouraged Filipinos to submit themselves to oral polio vaccines in private clinics and hospitals.
"Once we set the DOH guidelines for this, we'll address the polio concern [and] make [the vaccines] available in government hospitals,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
According to Lee Suy, a dose of the vaccine costs less than P100 in government hospitals.
Meanwhile, WHO said on Tuesday, May 13, that MERS is not yet a public health emergency.
"As a result of their deliberations, the Committee concluded that the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern have not yet been met,” a statement from the UN health agency read.
The MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus is a highly fatal, influenza-like illness characterized by fever, cough, and often with diarrhea. (READ: FAST FACTS: The MERS Coronavirus)
The Emergency Committee convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) held its 5th meeting on Tuesday, May 13.
The committee said “the seriousness of the situation had increased in terms of public health impact,” although there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.
Three expert advisors, as well as 13 countries with reported cases of MERS or evidence of infection since December 2013, joined Tuesday’s teleconference.
"We still enjoy at this time a MERS-CoV-free [country], although we are still monitoring Filipinos in the Middle East who were quarantined because they tested positive or because they are still waiting for test results. The campaign against MERS-Cov continues,” Lee Suy said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The awareness campaign is working, since many Filipinos from the Middle East experiencing symptoms are still approaching DOH for testing. (READ: MERS alert: 11 things OFWs should do)
Lee Suy said the PhilHealth already has a MERS package that will cover the medical examination of patients suspected with the virus. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com