ZAMBIA—Zambia has received the first batch of 1.4 million doses of oral cholera vaccine to be distributed to people in the country’s cholera hotspots.
This batch is part of the 1.7 million doses promised by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Zambia’s government procured these vaccines in partnership with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The southern African country has been fighting cholera since the waterborne disease spread in October last year, affecting 45 of its 160 districts.
So far, the total number of cases is 9,580, with 418 new cases reported in the last 24 hours, and 374 people have died, with 12 more reported in the last 24 hours.
In the last 24 hours, around 364 people have been discharged, bringing the overall number of discharges to 8,410, while 796 people remain admitted.
The health ministry will formally receive the vaccines after they arrived late on Sunday.
While describing Lusaka as the severely hit location on Sunday, the ministry stated that it will complete the necessary preparations to commence community vaccines in designated hotspots in Lusaka province.
The vaccines will be given to eligible people aged one and above in high-risk districts of Lusaka, the country’s capital and the source of the current outbreak.
Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo stated that the second batch will soon arrive in the country, adding that the vaccine will be distributed to people in cholera-prone areas.
“The vaccines we’ve got are insufficient for a nationwide, non-selective reaction. As a result, they will be deployed in phases in high-risk locations so that we can have an impact on cholera transmission, illness, and death,” she explained.
She went on to say that due to the limited number of vaccines available, the government will not undertake mass vaccinations but will instead conduct targeted vaccinations, adding that each person will receive one dose rather than the recommended two doses in order to reach more people.
Zambia has a population of more than 19 million, and adults need two doses for full vaccination, while very young children may need three.
The minister praised the cooperating partners who worked with her government to get the vaccines and other resources needed to combat cholera.
According to her, the administration was dedicated to quickly containing the present outbreak.
Cissy Byenkya, the interim UN resident coordinator, stated that the successful implementation of the immunization program was critical to combating the waterborne disease.
She added that the UN family in Zambia would continue to support the government in its efforts to limit the disease and that this support is being delivered in various ways, including the provision of volunteers, the distribution of chlorine and oral rehydration solutions, and technical assistance.
However, she made clear that the UN family was concerned that the current outbreak was more severe than past outbreaks, with more cases and deaths, and that the majority of those infected were young people.
Zambia has taken a number of steps to combat the current outbreak, including postponing the reopening of schools and limiting attendance at cholera victims’ funerals to five individuals.
The National Heroes Stadium, the country’s largest sports venue, has been adapted to treat cholera patients.
The government has also urged Zambians living in towns to relocate to the countryside.