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413,479 kids under 5 in Soccsksargen Region to get MR-polio vaccines

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (PIA) -- At least 413,479 children in Soccsksargen under age 5 will be covered in the ongoing nationwide "Chikiting Ligtas" supplemental immunization activities (SIA) for measles-rubella and oral polio vaccine (MR-OPV) led by the Department of Health-Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD) Soccsksargen Region.

DOH Regional Immunization Program manager Dr. Edvir Jane Montañer told PIA General Santos Monday that the total number is an aggregate of "targeted" children below 5 years old from the different provinces in Soccsksargen, namely North Cotabato, 128,744; South Cotabato, 89,675; Sultan Kudarat, 78,965; Sarangani, 57,858; and General Santos City, 58,237.  

The measles-rubella vaccine is intended for children ages 9 months to less than 5 years, while the oral polio vaccine will be given to those ages 0 to less than 5 years.   

Leading the kick-off ceremony of SIA campaign for the MR-OPV on Wednesday (May 3) at the Robinsons Place in General Santos, Health Undersecretary Abdullah Dumama Jr. reiterated that the MR-polio vaccines are very safe, effective, and free.

"Hindi ho ito binigyan ng pagkakataon na magkaroon ng kahit konting flaws o pagkakamali, lahat ho ito ay pinag-aralan nang mabuti, nang matagal, at masigasig na binigyan ng pansin ng ating mga dalubhasa. Huwag ho kayong matatakot."

He also said the SIA campaign, which will run until May 31, aims to prevent MR-polio outbreak and fatalities among under-five children.

In an interview with media, Dumama said that aside from immunization, DOH will continue its massive surveillance of the diseases as he admitted that cases of measles-rubella and polio in Soccksargen are not alarming.

Dumama, who is the Undersecretary of Health-Field Implementation and Coordination Team-Mindanao, explained that the supplemental immunization is being done because “napag-alaman natin based on data na mukhang tumataas ang mga kaso ng measles, rubella at polio. Iyong polio [vaccine] ay isang pagkakataon ito para maiwasan natin ‘yong pagkalumpo ng mga bata.”

According to him, the DOH surveillance was quite telling that there have been cases of “acute flaccid paralysis” in the country that if left unattended will eventually lead to polio.

“Two or three years ago, may nakita tayong mga environmental samples na nag yield na may mga polio sa ating mga river banks in Manila, in BARMM, in Davao, some areas in Luzon, and in Cebu mayroon tayo. So na-commit namin na dapat wala tayong polio makikita sa susunod na taon,” he further said.

The MR-OPV program, the health official said, has somehow taken a backseat in government’s priorities in the last two years due to the threat and restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said now that the situation has stabilized, they are resuming their active campaign against MR-polio to prevent current cases from further increasing.  

But he was quick to emphasize that the health frontlines overseeing the immunization activities shall ensure that the COVID-19 health protocols are fully observed, given that recent data monitoring has revealed a rise in the number of cases.

In his message, DOH-CHD XII Regional Director Dr. Aristides Concepcion Tan called on parents to ensure that their kids get to avail of the supplemental immunization, expressing the hope for a successful SIA, which intends to attain at least 95% of the intended population of children in Soccsksargen being immunized.

Meanwhile, Acting City Health Officer Dr. Lalaine Calonzo underscored the importance of parents showing concern through their participation in the SIA, emphasizing to them that vaccinating the children against MR-polio can save lives and help “build, mold, and solidify healthy Generals."

She then expressed her gratitude to all parents who brought their children to the venue for the immunization.

Aside from Usec. Dumama and Dir. Tan, she also thanked other DOH officials such as Provincial DOH SarGen Officer Dr. Shahrir Duldoco, Dr. Montañer, and DOH 12 Local Health Support Division chief Dr. Amabella Taruc, for attending the SIA launch in General Santos.

Also present were Sarangani Provincial Health Officer Dr. Arvin Alejandro, CHO National Immunization Program coordinator Dr. Karl Ivan Daryl Igrobay, City Councilor Elizabeth Bagonoc, Brgy. Lagao Kagawad Engr. Michael Tanzo, Executive Assistant to the City Mayor Johnrex Galdo representing Mayor Lorelie Geronimo-Pacquiao, the Red Cross Gensan-Sarangani chapter, and the Philippine Information Agency Region XII. (With Harlem Jude Ferolino, PIA SarGen)

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Catherine Apelacio

Information Officer III

Region 12

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