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Zimbabwe receives 1 million cholera vaccines, none for Matebeleland

by Staff reporter
21 Jan 2024 at 02:27hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE will this week take delivery of a consignment of close to one million cholera vaccines ahead of the commencement of a vaccination campaign targeted at other regions except Matebeleland which is set to kick off next month.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care has secured about 2,2 million doses of the oral cholera vaccine (OCV) from the International Coordinating Group (ICG), which will be delivered in batches.

The vaccination campaign, targeting multiple hotspot districts in seven provinces, will begin on February 29.

The ICG is a global health initiative established in 1997 under the World Health Organisation (WHO) to manage and coordinate the emergency supply and distribution of vaccines for critical outbreaks of four specific diseases — cholera, meningitis, yellow fever and Ebola.

Zimbabwe is presently battling a cholera outbreak that has so far claimed 71 lives, while more than 300 others are suspected to have succumbed to the waterborne disease.

As of January 17, Zimbabwe had reported 18 865 suspected cholera cases, 2 223 confirmed cases and 12 137 recoveries.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Aspect Maunganidze said the vaccination programme will be rolled out in phases.

"The decision to allocate 2 226 820 vaccines was made on January 12, 2024, with the initial 892 286 doses coming into the country in the next seven to 10 days following the approval," said Dr Maunganidze.

"We expect these vaccines in Zimbabwe anytime next week (this week).

"We then intend to start the vaccination programme from February 29, 2024, in a phased approach in the hotspots.

"We will be targeting the hotspots areas, also known as Prioritised Areas for Multi-Sectoral Interventions, where cases are being reported currently.

"These areas include targeted districts in the most affected provinces of Harare, Manicaland, Masvingo, Midlands, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central."

The districts targeted are Mutare Rural and Urban, Buhera, Gutu, Chiredzi, Mwenezi, Mberengwa, Zvishavane, Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe, Kariba, Mazowe, Mbire and Mt Darwin.

In Harare province, Dr Maunganidze said, vaccines will be administered in Kuwadzana, Glen View, Budiriro, Mbare, Southlea Park, Highfield, Glen Norah and Chitungwiza.

"Let me say that currently, these are the most affected areas where we will target specific wards reporting cases," he added.

Everyone above the age of one year will be eligible to receive a dose.

"For this campaign, only one dose will be given as opposed to the usual two doses," he said.

"One dose will protect the individual for at least six months as opposed to two doses, which have a protection of above three years."

The vaccines are administered orally.

"The vaccine is not an end to cholera, but a temporary measure which should be complemented with tangible investment in safe water provision, health education on hygiene practices, increase in sanitation coverages, elimination of open defecation and removal of solid waste," he added.

"The streets need to be clean with no dumping and avoidance of food vending and preparation from undesignated areas."

Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Dr Johannes Marisa said the vaccine will protect those in high-risk areas.

"This is a commendable initiative taken by Government to ensure the safety of the public," said Dr Marisa.

"This vaccine will immunise people from getting the disease in the long run, so people should take it seriously.

"We hope the programme will spread across the country so that everyone benefits."

A strained global supply of cholera vaccines has affected response to cholera outbreaks in multiple countries throughout the world.

As a result, the world has witnessed an unprecedented rise in cholera outbreaks in recent years, fuelled by factors like climate change, conflict and natural disasters.

This surge in demand has outpaced existing vaccine production capacity.

Experts say the Covid-19 pandemic also placed significant strain on countries' healthcare systems as well as vaccine manufacturing capacity, diverting resources and attention away from other critical diseases like cholera.

A major cholera vaccination campaign was carried out in Harare in 2018.


How does the OCV work?

These vaccines contain weakened or killed cholera bacteria strains that cannot cause the disease themselves.

When these bacteria enter the body through the mouth, they stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies.

These antibodies specifically target the cholera toxin, a key factor in causing the severe diarrhoea and dehydration associated with cholera.

When a vaccinated person ingests the actual cholera bacteria, the pre-existing antibodies bind to the toxin, preventing it from attaching to intestinal cells and causing damage.

Two doses of OCVs typically provide protection for three to five years, after which the antibody levels wane and booster doses may be required.

Source - The Sunday Mail