By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Pia Cayetano on Monday expressed her concern over the Philippines possibly losing its polio-free status due to the dip in the number of Filipino families availing vaccination.
Cayetano lamented that one of the ‘casualties’ brought about by the Dengvaxia scare was not only measles but polio as well.
“It caught my attention that the Department of Health (DOH) has issued a warning to all of us that we are in danger of losing our polio-free status,” Cayetano said during a privilege speech at the Senate.
“So since the year 2000, we have already been declared as polio-free, which was something that really delighted me because I actually grew up with a classmate who has polio,” she said.
And yet, she noted that the DOH, earlier this year, announced a measles outbreak, prompting fears of other ailments surfacing in the next few years.
“When we received the news that there was an outbreak of measles, what came to my mind was not just measles. What came to my mind was all the ailments that have been eradicated or are close to being eradicated because we have had a very successful vaccination program throughout the decades in our country,” said Cayetano.
“I was saddened to find out that my biggest fear was true. It wasn’t just measles. Mothers were not bringing their children to the health centers to be vaccinated for all the vaccines, not just measles. But because of the Dengvaxia scare, the mothers concluded that all vaccines are bad, which time and again, we kept on repeating, that that is not true,” she pointed out.
Cayetano said she is saddened to get the confirmation that the deterioration in vaccination rate is also seen in polio.
“And after 19 years, it’s so sad that this may actually come back,” she lamented.
Thus, she said, the government should intensify its efforts to restore Filipinos’ trust in the government’s vaccination program to protect their children from diseases like polio.
“If we need to shake things up a bit, I think we really should. If we need to put up billboards all over the country, we should put these on billboards.
“I won’t go on about the technicalities, beyond the reality that we deprive the life of these children, a life that could be spent climbing trees, playing piko, playing patintero, maybe even becoming a Southeast Asian Games or Olympic Games champion, if their mothers or their parents do not feel the importance of vaccination,” she said.