ALL is set for the start of the Oral Cholera Vaccination (OVC) rollout today, with a target of reaching over 800 000 people in hotspots countrywide.
This is the first phase of the vaccine rollout, which will eventually see 2,3 million vaccine doses being deployed to 29 of the hardest hit districts over the next few weeks.
The campaign will be launched in Kuwadzana suburb in Harare, with Glen View, Budiriro, Highfield and Chitungwiza expected to simultaneously rollout the vaccination.
Masvingo and Manicaland provinces have also been prioritised under the initial rollout for hotspots, particularly Chiredzi and Buhera.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora on Saturday received a consignment of vaccine doses, which forms part of the 2,3 million doses allocated to Zimbabwe by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision, with support from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF.
The vaccines were funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance through the ICG.
Speaking after the handover ceremony, Dr Mombeshora said the vaccines had come at an opportune moment as the country had been recording a surge in cases since November. On Saturday, 150 new suspected cases and nine suspected deaths were recorded while 10 cases were laboratory confirmed.
Hwange has been notching higher numbers, with 35 recorded on Saturday.
Since the start of the cholera outbreak, Zimbabwe has recorded 21 101 suspected cholera cases, 2 367 confirmed cases, 20 416 recoveries, 71 confirmed deaths and 402 suspected cholera deaths.
Said Dr Mombeshora: “This is a preventable disease and it is very sad that we have lost lives to it. Today we are here to receive vaccines which come on the side of prevention.
“I would like to urge all Zimbabweans to take this vaccine seriously because it helps and it will save lives. It is not new; we have used it before.”
Dr Mombeshora said the first batch of 294 000 doses of the OVC had already been dispatched to Masvingo in preparation for the rollout.
The cholera vaccine is effective in preventing cholera and provides about 85 percent protection for the first six months after vaccination.
When enough of the population is immunised, it may protect those who have not been immunised.
The WHO recommends the use of the OVC in combination with other measures among those at high risk.
Dr Mombeshora said measures were being put in place to address the challenge of access to clean water in communities, which has been identified as one of the drivers of the cholera outbreak.
“Government is also putting in place a lot of measures on the preventive side to try and make sure that we have clean, safe water to drink both in rural and urban areas.
“The Government will continue to put more resources and effort to make sure that we prevent these diseases.
“We are also embarking on a clean-up campaign in Harare which will be rolled out in all cities,” he added.
Government has a target of drilling 35 000 boreholes in all the country’s villages so that people have access to clean water and can also use the water to engage in horticulture where they will eventually sell excess produce.
To date, over 3 000 boreholes have been drilled and some communities are already getting clean water and have profitable village business units.
WHO representative to Zimbabwe Dr Jean Marie Dangou said a collaborative approach was needed to win the fight against cholera.
“WHO and UNICEF combined efforts have ensured swift vaccine deployment, improved knowledge on cholera prevention measures, and strengthened healthcare systems in affected communities.
“But the fight against this deadly disease demands a united front. We urge all partners from donors, non-governmental organisations, civil society and the private sector leaders and individuals, to step forward and join this crucial crusade.
“By mobilising resources and expertise, we cannot only safeguard the progress made, but ultimately dismantle the conditions that enable cholera to thrive,” he said.
Dr Dangou said the WHO was committed to protecting lives and safeguarding the health of the nation.
While the WHO will provide guidance on the vaccination process, UNICEF will offer technical and financial support to the roll-out of the campaign across all provinces.
UNICEF country representative Dr Tajudeen Oyewale they have been supporting the response across the various pillars including co-ordination, case management, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), among others.
“For the OCV campaign, UNICEF has provided technical support for the application to the ICG while the vaccines are being delivered through UNICEF Supply Division.
“In preparation for the campaign, UNICEF has supported the mobilisation activities in Masvingo Province with focus group discussions with communities underway in collaboration with Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust (AWET),” he said. – Herald