Neglected tropical diseases

Dog rabies vaccine bank in KwaZulu-Natal to accelerate mass immunization of dogs

26 June 2013 | Geneva

A dog rabies vaccine bank for South Eastern African countries will greatly ensure availability of vaccines to support dog immunization campaigns in the region. The project is part of a rabies control programme initiated in 2009 and implemented in the South African province of Kwa Zulu Natal and south Western Tanzania.

Regular supply and availability of dog rabies vaccines will also benefit dog immunization programmes in neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The announcement to set up such a facility came during the 12-14 February meeting of the Southern and Eastern African Rabies Group (SEARG) in Dar-es-Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania.

It is being funded by the 2009 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) rabies project and coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO). The vaccine bank is expected to be operational in 2013.

Although donated vaccines will be modest initially, their strategic distribution over time should help to develop practical experience at the periphery of KwaZulu Natal, particularly for dog immunization which is the single most cost effective way of containing and eliminating most human rabies deaths” said Dr François Xavier Meslin, who supervised the BMGF/WHO project. “These vaccine-doses should help maintain the initial areas covered by the project rabies free.”

The vaccine bank will also provide an opportunity to these countries to gain first-hand experience in mass immunization of dogs, get increased access to vaccines and improve data on the size of dog populations.

These are important steps towards acquiring baseline data and experience for developing national programmes for human and dog rabies elimination.

Mr Kevin Leroux, Coordinator of the Kwa Zulu Natal Rabies Control Project at Allerton Laboratories in Pietermaritzburg has offered to provide cold storage space and Dr Louis Nel, of the University of Pretoria and President of SEARG will manage the vaccine stocks in close collaboration with WHO.

The vaccine donation will be accompanied by syringes and cold boxes. Project staff in Kwa Zulu Natal and Tanzania can, upon request, provide technical assistance to recipient countries.

The first vaccine doses will be available during the third quarter of 2013.

Major international manufacturers of dog rabies vaccines have been invited to contribute in cash and kind. Two of them have already expressed interest to support the vaccine bank.

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HOW TO OBTAIN RABIES VACCINES

South Eastern African countries bordering Kwa Zulu Natal where the BMGF/WHO rabies project is being implemented and which are interested in obtaining rabies vaccines should contact the following:

- Dr Bernadette Abela-Ridder: abelab@who.int
- Dr François Meslin: meslinfx@gmail.com
- Mr K.Leroux: K.leroux@kzndae.gov.za