The largest cholera vaccination campaign in history has been launched in an attempt to put the brakes on a disease which is ravaging parts of Africa. The Daily Telegraph reports that nearly 3.5m doses of oral cholera vaccine will be used in campaigns in Nigeria, Malawi, Zambia, Uganda and South Sudan.
There have been an increasing number of outbreaks of the infectious disease in recent years and at least 12 countries or areas in sub-Saharan Africa are currently reporting cholera outbreaks.
The report says the campaign is part of a renewed focus on the disease, with the World Health Organisation’s Global Taskforce on Cholera Control aiming for a 90% reduction in cholera deaths by 2030. In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012 just 1.5m doses of cholera vaccine were used worldwide. This compares to 2017 when almost 11m were used. And in the first four months of 2018 more than 15m doses were approved for use around the world.
The most recent figures from the WHO show there were 132,000 cases of the disease, including 2,400 deaths, in 2016. However, this is thought to be an underestimate because of both a lack of surveillance of the disease and an unwillingness among countries to admit to a cholera outbreak.
The report says this latest vaccine campaign has been funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the campaign is being implemented by the countries’ ministries of health with support from the WHO. The vaccines are given in two doses, the first gives protection for six months and the second for three to five years.
Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, described the scale of the campaign as unprecedented. He added: “We have worked hard to ensure there is now enough vaccine supply to keep the global stockpile topped up and ready for most eventualities.”
Alongside vaccines, improved water and sanitation are key to preventing disease outbreaks, the report says. “With more and more people now succumbing to this terrible preventable disease, the need for improved water and sanitation – the only long-term, sustainable solution to cholera outbreaks – has never been clearer,” said Berkley.
At the World Health Assembly in May – the decision-making body of the WHO – countries affected by the disease will be urged to invest in clean water, hygiene and sanitation.
Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said: “Every rainy season, cholera springs up and brings devastation to communities across Africa. With this historic cholera vaccination drive, countries in the region are demonstrating their commitment to stopping cholera claiming more lives.”The Daily Telegraph report