Amid what global Vaccine Alliance Gavi is calling an “unprecedented combination” of epidemics, the UN and partners are supporting the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s major new immunization campaign against cholera which began on Monday, targeting more than 800,000.
The campaign began in North Kivu in the restive east of the country, where armed groups hold sway over large areas, and the DRC’s worst-ever Ebola epidemic is still raging, having claimed well over 1,000 lives so far.
The cholera campaign will be implemented by the DRC’s Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, and funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. A total of 835,183 people in Binza, Goma, Kayina, Karisimbi, Kibirizi, Kirotshe and Rutshuru areas will be vaccinated by a deadline of next Saturday.
A first dose will be given, and if all goes well, the second dose will be rolled out at a later stage to provide full protection. More than 10,000 cases of cholera have been reported in the country since January 2019, leading to more than 240 deaths. In addition, 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.
“The DRC is confronted with an unprecedented combination of deadly epidemics,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “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.
That’s why we are stepping up our response,” he added, “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.”
Campaign is 'massive contribution' - WHO
“Cholera is a preventable disease. Vaccinating people at risk in the most exposed health zones in North Kivu against cholera is a massive contribution and will protect hundreds of thousands of people against the disease and raise population immunity levels in these areas,” said Dr. Deo Nshimirimana, acting WHO Representative in the DRC.
The cholera vaccine doses were taken from the global cholera vaccine stockpile, which is fully funded by Gavi. Gavi is also supporting operational costs for the campaign.
Since the stockpile was launched in 2013, millions of doses have helped tackle outbreaks across the globe. In the fifteen 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 doses to 22 different countries.