Massive cholera vaccination in Congo

Australian Medical Association/AusMed

Phase 2 of the biggest ever oral vaccination campaign against cholera has just taken place in 15 health districts in the four central provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – Kasaï, Kasaï Oriental, Lomami et Sankuru, the World Health Organisation reports.

The second dose of vaccine confers lasting immunity against cholera, and was targeted at 1,235,972 people over one year of age. The five-day, door-to-door campaign involved 2,632 vaccinators recruited mainly from local communities, whose job it was to administer the oral cholera vaccine, fill in vaccination cards and tally sheets, and compile a daily summary of the teams’ progress.

In parallel, 583 community mobilisers had been selected – one mobiliser for every three teams in urban areas and one mobiliser for every two teams in rural districts. Their job was to alert local people that vaccinators will visit their homes. They used loudspeakers to spread the message, particularly in the early evening.

The campaign was organised by the country’s Ministry of Health with technical, logistic and financial support from WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC). It is the second such campaign in this central region of the DRC. A total of 1,224,331 people over one year of age were vaccinated during the first round in late December 2018. The purpose of the vaccination campaign is to contain the serious epidemic that resulted in 9,154 presumed cases and 458 deaths in the five affected provinces in Kasaï region between January and December 2018.

“This cholera vaccination campaign marks the intensification of our response in the DRC,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“WHO and our partners are working with national authorities to rollout the vaccine, which comes in addition to multiple interventions introduced since the beginning of the cholera epidemic, including sanitation and water quality control in the affected areas, many of which have little access to a safe water supply.”

The oral vaccines were provided from global cholera vaccine stocks managed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

“This vaccination campaign will play a key role in bringing this cholera outbreak under control,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi.

“The DRC is currently going through an unprecedented combination of deadly epidemics, with Ebola and measles outbreaks also causing untold misery across the country. It is vital that the global effort to control these outbreaks continues to receive support. We cannot allow this needless suffering to continue.”

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