While waiting for COVID vaccine, they did not forget flu and polio

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    ‘Doctor Tan… has limited budget in her office to be spent for mass vaccination activities… but she manages to cover other poor towns in Quezon using probably her personal funds and donations from friends’

    AN official of the Department of Health (DOH) has noted that the COVID-19 pandemic and “vaccine hesitancy” have slowed down the government’s immunization initiative against polio, influenza and other diseases.

    Dr. Maria Wilda Silva, the DOH’s National Immunization Program Manager, said the declaration of lockdowns because of the pandemic really affected the immunization coverage. She reported this during an online forum hosted by the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines. Dr. Silva said the achievement in the first quarter of 2020 was comparable to the first quarter last year, but “when we look at the monthly coverage starting in March, we really saw the effect of the lockdown.”

    The National Capital Region and Calabarzon are the priority areas for polio vaccination, said Silva. “Unfortunately, we are really lagging behind in terms of coverage, in these two regions, but we are helping them out so that they can catch up because we cannot afford to leave one community behind while the others are protected,” said the health official.

    The DOH said that there are 25 listed cases of polio infections in the Philippines as of August 25. Sixteen of the infected children have already experienced a disability due to the disease. Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease that causes paralysis. Last September 2019, the DOH confirmed the re-emergence of polio in the country, 19 years after the Philippines was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization.

    The worldwide effort of Rotary International in fighting polio was started by Mateo Armando “Mat” Caparas, the first and only Filipino to become president of RI, who died recently at the age of 97. This campaign has become a huge success and has drawn the support of Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

    Another Rotarian, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, president of RC Manila South, has taken up where Caparas left off. Jimenez said his group is truly committed to do their part in the global effort to eradicate polio, thru free vaccinations to needy communities, correct info dissemination, and activities such as motorcades just like during the World End Polio Day last Oct. 24, 2019.

    In Quezon province, meanwhile, while Quezonians are following the Kapitolyo’s COVID-19 tally of from 5 to 1,005 cases, Quezon’s 4th district Representative Angelina “Helen” Tan has been busy going around the province giving free anti-polio vaccines, along with anti-flu and anti-pneumonia, and doing the injections herself to poor children and adults from Gumaca to Unisan. Rep. Helen Tan is a physician and chairwoman of the House of Representatives Committee on Health.

    Doctor Tan, just like other representatives, has a limited budget in her office to be spent for mass vaccination activities especially in her district, but she manages to cover other poor towns in Quezon using probably her personal funds and donations from friends, just like what Comelec spokesman James Jimenez is doing.

    The good news is that just last week, the World Health Organization has declared the whole continent of Africa as polio-free. The bad news is that Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Taliban in Pakistan continue killing polio vaccinators for religious and political reasons.

    Luckily, vaccine advocates like Jimenez and Congresswoman Tan do not encounter that kind of violent opposition in their work in the Philippines. Or, shall we say just a tiny, annoying opposition from local politicians in some hillbilly’s enclaves in the Bondoc Peninsula, who feel threatened by the presence of a pretty, amiable congresswoman injecting vaccines on poor children.

    To Comelec spokesman Jimenez and Quezon Rep. Tan goes our wish that you continue your good work in helping planet Earth eradicate polio, flu, and pneumonia, even if some forces try to make your advocacy difficult. We also would like to see you and thousands of other Filipinos do the same when the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.