Cholera vaccination targets 2,3m

A United Nations Children’s Fund employee administering a cholera vaccination dose at Kuwadzana Poly Clinic in Harare on Monday

At least 2,3 million people from 26 high risk districts are targeted under the national cholera vaccination campaign which was launched in Harare yesterday. 

The campaign comes at a time when Zimbabwe is battling a cholera outbreak that has been in existence for close to a year. 

Speaking on behalf of Health and Child Care minister Douglas Mombeshora, Harare Provincial Affairs and Devolution minister Charles Tavengwa bemoaned the surging cholera cases triggered by the onset of the rains as well as the high mobility witnessed during the festive holidays. 

“Cholera has long plagued our nation, caused untold suffering and claimed lives of our loved ones since the onset of the outbreak in 2023.“In recent weeks, we have witnessed a surge in the number of cholera cases attributable in part to the onset of the rains and attendant flooding and the increased population movements during the festive season.

“This stark reminder underscores the urgency of our actions and the importance of this vaccination campaign in complementing the existing public health and social measures that government has put in place to control the pandemic,” he said. 

Tawengwa said the vaccine was expected to complement existing measures and investments that the government had already implemented from the onset of the cholera epidemic. 

“To kick-start the vaccination campaign, the country has so far received 892 286 doses out of the 2 303 248 doses that have been allocated to the country by the International Co-ordination Group for cholera control.

“The vaccines have already been prepositioned in all provinces and cities and severely affected districts of the country (including here in Harare city). The next batch is expected in country by the 5th of February 2024.

“The staggered delivery of the vaccines into the country is a result of the current global shortage of OCV occasioned by high demand from several affected countries in this region that are rolling out similar vaccination campaigns,” he said. 

Tavengwa said the government would continue to be guided by disease burden statistics to determine priority areas for vaccination using a ward-based approach.Speaking at the same event, World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative Jean-Marie Dangou said the launch came as a relief given the current state of affairs regarding the cholera situation. 

“This is a momentous occasion marking a significant step forward in our collective fight against this deadly disease. Cholera remains a serious public health threat particularly in African countries like Zimbabwe with limited access to clean water and sanitation. The campaign gives us hope. I would like to assure you that this vaccine we have received is safe and very effective,” he said. 

Zimbabwe has recorded more than 20 000 suspected cholera cases and more than 400 confirmed and suspected deaths, since the first cases were recorded nearly a year ago. A multi-sectoral cholera response plan led by the Health and Child Care ministry in collaboration with other government ministries and supported by Unicef, WHO and partners and donors has also been rolled out. 

The cholera vaccine used in the country is the Euvichol-Plus vaccine, produced by EuBiologics. 

It is an oral vaccine administered through the mouth.One dose of vaccine protects against cholera infections for a period of at least six months.

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