Largest cholera vaccine drive in history to target spike in outbreaks

Two million people in five African countries to be protected against cholera

7 May 2018, Geneva / Brazzaville - A spate of cholera outbreaks across Africa has prompted the largest cholera vaccination drive in history, with more than two million people across the continent set to receive oral cholera vaccine (OCV).

The vaccines, funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, were sourced from the global stockpile and are being used to carry out five major campaigns in Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, South Sudan and Nigeria. The campaigns, which will be completed by mid-June, are being implemented by the respective Ministries of Health supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners of the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC), and mostly in reaction to recent cholera outbreaks.

In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012 just 1.5 million doses of cholera vaccines were used worldwide. In 2017 alone almost 11 million were used, from Sierra Leone to Somalia to Bangladesh. In the first four months of 2018 over 15 million doses have already been approved for use worldwide.

“This is an unprecedented response to a spike in cholera outbreaks across Africa,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “We have worked hard to ensure there is now enough vaccine supply to keep the global stockpile topped up and ready for most eventualities. However with more and more people now succumbing to this terrible, preventable disease, the need for improved water and sanitation – the only long-term, sustainable solution to cholera outbreaks – has never been clearer.”

Through its Regional Office for Africa, WHO regularly provides technical and operational support to countries often affected by cholera in Africa. In particular, since the beginning of 2018 WHO has led on providing technical expertise and guidance, working closely with Ministries of Health in the five countries to plan and implement the campaigns with different partners. This is part of a global push to reduce cholera deaths by 90 percent by 2030.

“Oral cholera vaccines are a key weapon in our fight against cholera,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “But there are many other things we need to do to keep people safe. WHO and our partners are saving lives every day by improving access to clean water and sanitation, establishing treatment centres, delivering supplies, distributing public health guidance, training health workers, and working with communities on prevention.” 

The burden of cholera remains high in many African countries. As of 7 May many countries are facing cholera outbreaks, with at least 12 areas or countries reporting active cholera transmission in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent developments in the use of OCVs show that the strong mobilisation of countries and partners can effectively tackle the disease when tools for prevention and control are readily available.

“Every rainy season, cholera springs up and brings devastation to communities across Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa. “With this historic cholera vaccination drive, countries in the region are demonstrating their commitment to stopping cholera from claiming more lives. We need to build on this momentum through a multisectoral approach and ensure that everyone has access to clean water and sanitation, no matter where they are located.” 

The five African campaigns are:

  • Nigeria
    1.2 million doses will protect around 600,000 people to contain an emerging cholera outbreak in Bauchi state, where more than 1700 cases have been reported.
  • Malawi

    One million doses of cholera vaccine will protect over 500,000 people in Lilongwe to combat an outbreak which has infected more than 900 people across the country. 

  • Uganda

    360,000 doses of cholera vaccine have been shipped to Uganda to protect 360,000 people in Hoima District, Western Uganda, after an outbreak in Kyangwali refugee camp hospitalized more than 900 people. The country is also now engaging in long-term cholera control planning to vaccinate over 1.7 million people in the coming months.

  • Zambia

    667,100 doses of cholera vaccine are being delivered as part of the second round of vaccination to the Lusaka slums after a major outbreak infected over 5700 people, killing more than 100. Zambia is also engaging on long term cholera control and planning vaccination in additional hotspots.

  • South Sudan
    113,800 doses have been shipped as a preventative measure ahead of the war-torn country’s rainy season. These extra doses will complement doses remaining from previous campaigns to target Panyijiar. Over 2.6 million doses of OCV have been administered in South Sudan since 2014.

Oral Cholera Vaccine is recommended to be given in two doses. The first gives protection for six months, the second for three to five years. All five campaigns should have completed their second round of vaccinations by mid-June.

A resolution on cholera will be proposed by Zambia and Haiti at this month’s World Health Assembly, calling for renewed political will and an integrated approached to eliminate cholera, including investment in clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

The global cholera vaccine stockpile is managed by the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC), which decides on OCV use in non-emergency settings, and the International Coordinating Group (ICG), which decides on outbreak response and features representatives from WHO, UNICEF, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The stockpile is funded in full by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is a GTFCC partner and has an observer status on the ICG.

*** END***

Photos and b-roll of the cholera campaign in Zambia (18-23 April) accessible here

Notes to editors

About Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance    

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership committed to saving children's lives and protecting people's health by increasing equitable use of vaccines in lower-income countries. The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. Gavi uses innovative finance mechanisms, including co-financing by recipient countries, to secure sustainable funding and adequate supply of quality vaccines. Since 2000, Gavi has contributed to the immunisation of nearly 640 million children and the prevention of more than 9 million future deaths. Learn more at www.gavi.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is supported by donor governments (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the State of Qatar, the Sultanate of Oman, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States), the European Commission, Alwaleed Philanthropies, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as private and corporate partners (Absolute Return for Kids, Anglo American plc., The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, China Merchants Group, Comic Relief, Deutsche Post DHL, the ELMA Vaccines and Immunization Foundation, Girl Effect, The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW), the Gulf Youth Alliance, JP Morgan, “la Caixa” Foundation, LDS Charities, Lions Clubs International Foundation, Majid Al Futtaim, Philips, Unilever, UPS and Vodafone). 

About the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization is the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations’ system. Key areas of work are: providing leadership on matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed; shaping the research agenda and stimulating the generation, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge; setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation; articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options; providing technical support, catalysing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity; and monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends.

Click image to enlarge
For Additional Information or to Request Interviews, Please contact:
Christian Lindmeier

Communications Officer
Tel: +41 79 500 6552
Email: lindmeierch [at] who.int

James Fulker

Telephone: +41 22 909 2926
Mobile: +41 79 429 55 05
Email: jfulker [at] gavi.org (Subject: RE)

Frédérique Tissandier

GAVI
Telephone: +41 22 909 29 68
Email: ftissandier [at] gavi.org