Cholera vaccination ramps up in Mozambique following cyclone

Australian Medical Association/AusMed

An oral cholera vaccination campaign to protect survivors of Cyclone Idai has begun in Beira, Mozambique. Funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the campaign will be carried out by the Mozambique Ministry of Health, with support from the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, and Save the Children.

There has already been one reported cholera death and almost 1500 reported cases following the cyclone, which caused severe flooding in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Madagascar after making landfall in March. Nine cholera treatment centres, with 500-bed capacity, are already admitting patients.

“Cyclone Idai’s trail of devastation has left the city of Beira’s water and sanitation infrastructure in ruins, providing the perfect conditions for cholera to spread,” said Gavi CEO, Dr Seth Berkley.

“This cyclone has already caused enough devastation and misery across south east Africa; we have to hope these vaccines will help stop a potentially major outbreak and prevent yet more suffering.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, sad hundreds of thousands of people were living in terrible conditions in temporary settlements without safe drinking water and sanitation, putting them at serious risk of cholera and other diseases.

“The key thing is to make sure that people can access rapid treatment and clean water and sanitation. The oral cholera vaccine is a vital emergency measure that will help save lives and stop the spread of this horrible disease,” he said.

Cholera is endemic to Mozambique, which has had regular outbreaks over the past five years. About 2000 people were infected in the last outbreak, which ended in February 2018.

The 884,953 doses of oral cholera vaccine arrived in Mozambique in early April. They were taken from the global cholera vaccine stockpile, which is fully-funded by Gavi. Gavi is also supporting operational costs of the campaign.

Since the stockpile was launched in 2013, millions of doses every year have helped tackle outbreaks across the globe. In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012, just 1.5 million doses of oral cholera vaccine were used worldwide. In 2018 alone, the stockpile provided 17 million of doses to 22 different countries.

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

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