WHO provides 1.4 mln doses of oral cholera vaccine to Zambia

Lusaka, (UNI) Zambia on Monday received the first batch of 1.4 million doses of oral cholera vaccine to be administered to people in cholera hotspots in the country.

The vaccines will be administered to eligible people aged one and above in selected high-risk areas in Lusaka, the country’s capital, which was the epicenter of the current outbreak.

The vaccine is part of the 1.7 million doses pledged by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo said the other batch will soon arrive in the country, and the vaccine will be given to people in cholera-prone areas.

She said the government will not conduct mass vaccinations but will conduct targeted vaccinations due to the limited vaccines available, adding that each person will be given one dose, unlike the recommended two doses, so as to cater to more people.

“The vaccines we have received are not adequate for a countrywide non-selective response. Therefore, they will be deployed in a phased manner in targeted high-risk areas for us to achieve impact in controlling transmission, illness, and death from cholera,” she said.

The minister thanked the cooperating partners that have worked with her ministry to secure the vaccines and other resources necessary for the fight against cholera.

According to her, the government was committed to ensuring that the current outbreak was swiftly controlled.

Cissy Byenkya, the acting UN resident coordinator, said the successful implementation of the vaccine program was key in addressing the waterborne disease.

She said the UN family in Zambia will continue to support the country in the ongoing efforts to contain the disease, adding that the support was being provided in many areas, such as the provision of volunteers, distribution of chlorine and oral rehydration solutions as well as technical support.

She, however, said the UN family was concerned that the current outbreak was more severe compared to previous outbreaks with more cases and deaths.

The UN official further expressed concern that most of the affected people were young.

The southern African nation has been battling cholera since the waterborne disease broke out in October last year, with 45 out of 160 districts being affected.

So far, the cumulative cases stand at 9,580 following 418 new cases in the past 24 hours, while a total of 374 people have died following 12 new deaths in the past 24 hours.

About 364 people were discharged in the past 24 hours, bringing the total discharges to 8,410, while a total of 796 people were still admitted.

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