Press Release
April 6, 2006


Vaccination remains the best defense for Filipino children against major diseases, including the resurgent polio virus and Hepatitis B, Senator Pia S. Cayetano stressed today as the nation marks World Health Day.

Cayetano, chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, said vaccination efforts have been redoubled all over the world following polio outbreaks in 18 countries since 2003, including in Nigeria and in neighboring Indonesia.

She noted that polio was supposed to have been eliminated worldwide by the year 2000 as targeted by the World Health Organization (WHO), but the deadline has been pushed to 2008 with the reemergence of the disease three years ago.

"We should not fall into false complacency just because the Philippines had been declared polio-free by the WHO in October 2000," the senator warned. "The absence of polio or the decrease in the number cases should not lead to reduced interest for immunization."

She said the case of Indonesiawhere more than 200 polio cases were recorded last year after the virus was supposed to have been wiped out ten years agoshould alert not only health officials but also parents on the importance of fully immunizing their child against the virus.

"Our children cannot be truly safe from the polio virus as long as it exists and stalks young victims anywhere in the world. Vaccination efforts should be intensified to prevent a resurgence, and to fully eradicate the disease by 2008."

Polio is caused by a water-borne virus, which attacks and withers children's limbs, often leading to paralysis.

As part of her activities on World Health Day, the senator will be donating anti-polio vaccines to several public medical centers and communities, including to the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center in Manila and the San Teodoro Municipal Health Center in Mindoro Oriental.

Cayetano is also the sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2012, which makes basic immunization services against Hepatitis B mandatory for infants within 24 hours from childbirth.

She said Hepatitis B is endemic in the country and currently affects more than eight million Filipinos, or around ten percent of the population. Most Hepatitis B carriers are ignorant of their condition, however, because the symptoms do not manifest until adulthood.

"Studies have shown that the virus can be transmitted from an infected pregnant mother to her baby, but this can be remedied by routine Hepatitis B vaccination of all newbornimmediately within 24 hours from birth," she said.

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