Today, the Government of Zimbabwe launched a vaccination campaign against cholera, in collaboration with UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). The first cholera vaccines were administrated by the Health and Child Care Honorable Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora during an event in Kuwadzana, one of the most affected areas of the current cholera outbreak, in the presence of Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF Representative, and Professor Jean-Marie Dangou, WHO Country Representative. These vaccines were made possible thanks to the financial support from GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, whose commitment to global health equity has been instrumental in providing access to life-saving vaccines for Zimbabwe. The cholera vaccines are an additional strategy the Government is rolling out to contain the spread of cholera in Zimbabwe.
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. A multisectoral cholera response plan led by the Ministry of Health and Child Care Care in collaboration with other Government Ministries and supported by UNICEF, WHO and partners and donors, has been rolled out focusing on streamlining response coordination at all levels, 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 introduction of the cholera vaccine is another tool to prevent the further spread of the disease. 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 cholera vaccine used in Zimbabwe is the Euvichol-Plus vaccine, produced by EuBiologics. 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.
The main operational strategy used in this campaign is house-to-house to minimize gatherings and further spread of the disease. This is complemented by fixed vaccination points in all health facilities within the catchment area. Each vaccination team is composed of three people, expected to vaccinate an average of 150 persons per day. Ahead of the start of the vaccination, a comprehensive social mobilization campaign was rolled-out to sensitize the population and generate demand for the vaccine.
While the cholera vaccine provides additional protection against infections, it is important to highlight that it does not replace the other cholera prevention measures, like for instance 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.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organzation (WHO) – Zimbabwe.