Clinical and Public Health Microbiology

Sierra Leone Will Start a Cholera Vaccination Drive to Prevent Outbreaks in August Flood Areas

The Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation has asked the Gavi Vaccine Alliance if it will give the country enough cholera vaccine from the global vaccine stockpile to forestall a cholera outbreak in the areas of the country that were recently flooded and buried under landslides, and the Alliance has agreed.  Gavi, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the government of the UK, and other health partners will help Sierra Leone administer two rounds of vaccinations in 25 affected communities starting in September.

Vibrio cholerae

“The devastating floods and landslides that ravaged Sierra Leone throughout August have left the country dangerously vulnerable to waterborne disease outbreaks,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the Gavi Alliance.  “Access to safe water and sanitation is limited, and the public health system, still recovering after the 2014 Ebola outbreak, is stretched.  These lifesaving vaccines, alongside urgent support to improve safe water and sanitation, have the potential to prevent a cholera outbreak before it has the chance to bring more misery to a country that has already suffered enough.”

The decision to send cholera vaccine from the global stockpile was reached quickly on August 31 by the International Coordinating Group for Vaccine Provision (ICG) after a WHO specialist visited the country.  The ICG sent 1,036,300 doses of the vaccine from UNICEF’s Global Supply Division to Freetown, Sierra Leone, on September 7.  The supply should cover two rounds of vaccinations.

Sierra Leone’s last major cholera outbreak occurred in 2012.  It killed 392 people and infected more than 25,000.

For more information, go to the UNICEF web site or the WHO website