Mass vaccination of dogs set to eliminate rabies

30Sep 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Mass vaccination of dogs set to eliminate rabies

A GLOBAL initiative that seeks to eliminate the rabies virus—Rabies Free Africa—is set to vaccinate two million dogs in East Africa.

A statement released yesterday by Rabies Free Africa said the organisation is well positioned to meet the 2030 World Health Organization’s goal of eliminating human rabies deaths.

In the last year alone, approximately 215,000 dogs were vaccinated for the rabies virus in Kenya. In Tanzania, another 120,000 dogs received the vaccine, according to the statement.

Rabies is the deadliest infectious disease known to humankind with a case fatality rate of 100 percent. More than 99 percent of the people infected with rabies get it from the bite of an unvaccinated dog. Nearly 60,000 people die each year from rabies and approximately 50 percent of them are children under 16.

“Through vaccination we have eradicated smallpox in humans and rinderpest in cattle. We are on the verge of winning the battle against polio - rabies belongs up there.” said Dr. Thumbi Mwangi, clinical assistant professor in the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health (Allen School) and director of Rabies Free Kenya.

Rabies Free Africa and Rabies Free Tanzania research and vaccination programmes, housed at the Washington State University Allen School, works with African governments and international partners to build in-country capacity.

Together, they are developing multiple strategies to decrease the average cost of implementing dog vaccination campaigns, increase access to post-exposure prophylaxis treatment, and identify initiatives that empower countries to launch rabies elimination campaigns for long-term sustainability.

“In Tanzania, in addition to mass dog vaccination campaigns, we focus on questions related to the vaccine, its efficacy under different storage and distribution conditions and developing cost-effective approaches to deliver the vaccine at scale across remote landscapes.” Felix Lankester, Rabies Free Tanzania director and professor at the Allen School, said.