By Cheruto Valentine

A major cholera vaccination campaign was launched yesterday in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The campaign targets to have over 800,000 people vaccinated in the eastern part of DRC.

A person receiving vaccine
Photo credits: WHO

Administration of the vaccine will take place in two distinct phases. The ongoing campaign, which is the implementation of the first phase, will administer the first of two doses of oral cholera vaccine (OCV) to people in these areas.

Following successful implementation, the second phase will be rolled out at a later stage, whereby a campaign to administer the second dose will take place. The completion of the second phase will provide full protection against cholera.

“Cholera is a preventable disease. Vaccinating people at risk in the most exposed health zones in North Kivu against cholera is a massive contribution and will protect hundreds of thousands of people against the disease and raise population immunity levels in these areas,” said Dr. Deo Nshimirimana, acting WHO Representative in the DRC.

Since the beginning of the year, over 10,000 cases of cholera have been reported in the country, leading to more than 240 deaths. In addition, over 80,000 suspected cases of measles have led to over 1,400 deaths so far this year. Coupled with the Ebola epidemic in the country, Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, believes that the DRC is being confronted with an unprecedented combination of deadly epidemics.

“While the Ebola outbreak continues to cause untold misery in the East, measles and cholera epidemics are claiming the lives of thousands of people throughout the country. That’s why we are stepping up our response, through this cholera vaccination campaign, through ongoing measles vaccinations in health zones affected by measles outbreaks, as well as through our continued support for Ebola vaccinations in both the DRC and neighbouring countries. We cannot allow this needless suffering to continue,” said Dr. Berkley.

According to Dr. Nshimirimana, WHO is working with national and provincial authorities and all partners to make sure that people targeted in these health areas will be reached with the vaccine. The campaign targets to have a total of 835,183 people vaccinated by 1 June 2019.

The campaign will be implemented by the DRC Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners. It will also be funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is a public-private partnership that brings together developing country and donor governments as well as other private sector partners. Gavi aids in increasing equitable use of vaccines in lower-income countries by securing sustainable funding and adequate supply of quality vaccines.

The 835,183 doses of OCV to be administered during this campaign were obtained from the global cholera vaccine stockpile. The global OCV stockpile was established in 2013 by WHO and received long term support and full funding from Gavi.

In 2018 alone, the stockpile provided 17 million of doses to 22 different countries. Since the beginning of 2019, more than 6 million doses have already been shipped to respond to outbreaks or address endemic cholera in countries including Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia and Zimbabwe. Contacts:  kabambie@who.intjfulker@gavi.org, ftissandier@gavi.org

 

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