Zimbabwe launches door-to-door oral cholera vaccination campaign as cases surge

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By Mary Taruvinga

Zimbabwe has rolled out an Oral Cholera Vaccination (OCV) campaign targeting people above the age of one.

The campaign is in collaboration with UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The OCV was launched in one of the hard-hit suburbs in Harare, Kuwadzana, on Monday.

According to the Health minister, Douglas Mombeshora, the campaign is targeting 2,3 million people, with 800 doses having been received so far.

“Cholera has long caused suffering and claimed the lives of our loved ones since the onset of the outbreak in 2023.

“In recent weeks we have witnessed a surge in the numbers of cholera cases attributable in part, to the onset of the rain and flooding and increased population movement during the festive season,” said the minister, in a speech read in his behalf by Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Province Charles Tawengwa.

Mombeshora said cholera vaccines are a known and effective public health intervention that is coming to complement existing measures and investments that the government has already implemented.

He said the vaccines have already been prepositioned in provinces and cities and severely affected districts of the country including here in Harare.

The campaign will be done door-to-door and in schools.

The next batch of doses is expected on February 5.

Mombeshora said there is a high demand for vaccines globally as such they should be put to good use.

“The staggered distribution of the vaccine in the country is a result of the current global shortage of the vaccination occasioned by high demand in several affected countries in the region.

“The safe use of this vaccine previously in previous campaigns should allay any fear or concerns that people might have. There is nothing to fear because it is safe and effective,” he said.

These vaccines were made possible with financial support from GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

Zimbabwe has recorded more than 20,000 suspected cholera and more than 400 confirmed and suspected deaths since the first cases were recorded nearly a year ago.

Dr Jean-Marie Dangou, the WHO Zimbabwe Representative said the country should embrace this opportunity.

“The main operational strategy used in this campaign is house-to-house to minimise gatherings and further spread of the disease.

UNICEF Zimbabwe Country Representative, Dr Tajudeen Oyewale said children should be prioritised in the vaccination campaign.

“In addition to the vaccine being able to prevent children from new cholera infections, it will also protect and prevent cholera cases in the country are reported in women. And when women are safe, they will be able to take care of children and the household,” he said.

Harare City Health Director, Prosper Chonzi urged citizens to get vaccinated and said the vaccine is safe.

“Its effectiveness is 100 percent. Its safety is 100 percent so we urge everyone to come forward and get vaccinated. It is for free,” he said.