The Philippine Department of Health officially concluded the polio outbreak response on June 3.
The decision came as the virus has not been detected in a child or in the environment in the past 16 months and is a result of comprehensive outbreak response actions including intensified immunization and surveillance activities in affected areas of the country.
The DOH announced a polio outbreak in the Philippines in September 2019, after 19 years of being polio-free.
Since then, the government, together with WHO, UNICEF and partners scaled nationwide polio campaigns to stop the spread of the virus.
Despite the tremendous challenges to immunization presented by the simultaneous impact of covid-19, the DOH continued robust polio immunization campaigns.
"This is a major win for public health and is an excellent example of what collective efforts can attain, even in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic. The closure of the polio outbreak is a direct result of strong political will and government leadership, the mobilization and engagement of resources and communities, the courage and commitment of healthcare and front-line workers, and the combined, coordinated efforts of the local governments and partners," said Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative to the Philippines, in a press release on Friday.
WHO supported the country’s polio outbreak response by providing both technical and operations support on intensifying polio surveillance, planning, preparing for and monitoring of immunization campaigns, infection prevention and control measures and risk communication. WHO also deployed international and national polio experts who provided on-the-ground technical support to the regions and local implementers.
UNICEF supported the Department of Health through vaccine procurement and delivery, development of immunization guidelines, social mobilization, engaging community members and influencers, and building the capacity of DOH and LGU staff nationwide to plan and ensure that no child was missed.
Aside from WHO and UNICEF, other core partners of the GPEI – Rotary International, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – also supported the Philippine polio outbreak response.