WHO set to vaccinate 800, 000 against cholera in DRC

Oral-Polio-Immunization
Immunization of a child used to illustrate the story. [Photo credit: Lagosmums]

More than 800,000 people will soon be immunised against cholera in North Kivu in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The vaccination campaign will be implemented by the DRC Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners and funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

According to a statement released by WHO on Tuesday, the campaign is aimed at containing the spread of cholera in the country.

Since January, over 10,000 cases of cholera have been reported in the country, leading to more than 240 deaths.

The country is also combating an Ebola outbreak which has killed over 1,000 people.

Also, over 80,000 suspected cases of measles have led to over 1,400 deaths so far this year while a case of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 was reported in Kasai province earlier this month.

WHO said to contain the cholera outbreak, 835,183 people in Binza, Goma, Kayina, Karisimbi, Kibirizi, Kirotshe and Rutshuru areas will be vaccinated by June 1.

“The campaign will administer the first of two doses of oral cholera vaccine (OCV) to people in these areas. Following successful implementation, a campaign to administer the second dose will take place at a later stage to provide full protection against cholera,” it said.

‘Unprecedented’

CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Seth Berkley, said the DRC is 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.

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”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.”

Cholera is a preventable disease. It is often associated with lack of water, good sanitation and hygiene.

Acting WHO Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Deo Nshimirimana, said vaccinating people at risk in the most exposed health zones in North Kivu against cholera is a massive contribution.

This, he said, will protect hundreds of thousands of people against the disease and raise population immunity levels in these areas.

“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.”

According to the international health agency, the 835,183 doses of oral cholera vaccine (OCV) were taken from the global cholera vaccine stockpile, which is fully funded by Gavi.

Gavi is also supporting operational costs for the campaign.

GAVI said since the stockpile was launched in 2013, millions of doses of OCV have helped tackle outbreaks across the globe.

“Since the beginning of 2019, more than six million doses have already been shipped to respond to outbreaks or address endemic cholera in countries including Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

“More than two million people have also been vaccinated in the DRC in 72 health zones as part of a measles outbreak response funded by Gavi through the Measles & Rubella Initiative (MRI).”

Also, 400,000 people are expected to be vaccinated as part of this response.

Gavi will also be funding a measles campaign for 18 million children aged six months-59 months starting later in the year.

“This will be additional to Gavi’s support for the government’s efforts to strengthen routine immunisation which is the best long-term solution against measles outbreaks,” the agency said.

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