Zanzibar — ZANZIBAR has begun cholera vaccination exercise, a campaign that targets to eliminate the epidemic in the Isles by 2028. The World Health Organization (WHO) has donated the vaccine and equipment to support the exercise.
Minister for Health, Social welfare, Elders, Gender, and Children Mr Nassor Ahmed Mazrui stated that the Isles started the exercise on Friday this week.
Mr Mazrui thanked the organization, saying that the ‘Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCVs)’ will be given to more than 300,000 people in areas experiencing frequent outbreaks in Unguja and Pemba.
The WHO liaison officer- Zanzibar, Dr Ghirmay Andemichael handed over the consignment to the minister, promising continued support. Dr Fadhil Mohamed Abdaulla- Director of Prevention and Public Awareness under the Ministry of Health, Social Welfare, Elders, Gender and Children, to,d reporters that the first phase of the vaccination exercise will last for five days in 34 administrative wards (Shehia). Zanzibar has a population of 1.5 million, according to 2018 estimates.
“The second phase of the vaccine is scheduled for July 31 to August 4 this year and all people in selected areas will have to take the vaccine with exception of pregnant mothers, infants under one-year of age, and people under close observation in Intensive Care Unit (ICU). We would like to inform all people that the vaccine is safe,” Dk Abdulla said.
Flanked by other health officers, including Ms Halima Khamis who is responsible for the vaccination campaign and Dr Vendelin Simon from the World Health Organization (WHO), he asked the media to help spread the message to the targeted areas so attract a big turn-out.
At the meeting held in the Ministry, Ms Khamis explained the importance of the safe vaccine, urging people to dismiss as baseless information linking the vaccine with COVID-19.
“These are two separate vaccines and the procedures for the coronavirus vaccine will be communicated to the people later,” she said.
She said that the vaccine has been approved by the WHO and the local Food and Drugs inspection Agency. GAVI through WHO, UNICEF, and the Zanzibar government contributed to make the vaccine available for Zanzibaris.
Zanzibar has experienced cholera outbreak several times in the past. Available data starts in 1978 when an estimated 13,769 people suffered, leading to 493 deaths.
The recent largescale outbreak was recorded in 2015/2016 with 4,330 patients including 68 deaths. The WHO officer said the OCV is safe and was used in Zanzibar in 2009 with good results. Other countries in Africa have also successfully used the vaccine, insisting that people should not get worried as it is safe and effective.
Health officers emphasized that using OCVs alone cannot eradicate cholera, saying multiple interventions including commitment in keeping surroundings clean and improving sanitation with acceptable waste disposal, and use of clean toilets and safe water for drinking are prerequisite in fighting cholera.