The Government of Zimbabwe Monday, January 29, launched a vaccination campaign against cholera, in collaboration with UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).
A Press Release by the World Health Organisation, Africa Region, disclosed that the vaccination programme was kicked off at Kuwadzana, one of the most affected areas of the country’s current outbreak, by the Health and Child Care Minister, Dr Douglas Mombeshora. The event was also witnessed by Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF Representative, and Professor Jean-Marie Dangou, WHO Country Representative.
Zimbabwe has recorded more than 20,000 suspected cholera and more than 400 confirmed and suspected deaths, since the first cases were recorded nearly a year ago. This led to a multisectoral response by the government in collaboration with UNICEF, WHO and donors with prompt treatment of infected people and prevention of the spread of the disease through improved access to safe water, sanitation, personal and food hygiene and the dissemination of preventive messages to population most at risk.
The statement revealed that the first three batches of 892,286 cholera vaccines arrived via air freight on January 25 and January 27 at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, from which they were immediately dispatched to be used in the most affected districts in the country. More arrivals are planned in the days to come.
The vaccine being used is the Euvichol-Plus vaccine, produced by EuBiologics and made available with financial support from GACVI, the Vaccine Alliance. It is an oral vaccine administrated by mouth. One dose of vaccine protects against cholera infections for a period of at least six months.
The cholera vaccination campaign in Zimbabwe is targeting 2.3 million people, aged one year old and above, living in 160 wards within 26 high risk districts in 7 provinces: Harare, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Manicaland, Masvingo and Midlands. These districts are considered the main drivers for the outbreak.
WHO hailed the introduction of the cholera vaccine as another tool to prevent the further spread of the disease but restated that it provides additional protection against infections, it should not replace other cholera prevention measures such as regular hand washing under running safe water, drinking treated or boiled water, safe disposal of solid, liquid, and human waste, and observing food hygiene standards.