Policy update on lifesaving rabies immunization

07 November 2017| Geneva −− On 18 October 2017, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization approved all of the recommendations proposed by the SAGE working group on rabies, as an update to the current WHO position paper on rabies immunization based on new evidence and experience in programme implementation.

SAGE guides progress on global strategies and policies regarding vaccine-preventable diseases. A SAGE rabies working group was established in July 2016 to review new evidence that would merit updating of the 2010 WHO position paper on rabies vaccines. The working group conducted systematic reviews of published and unpublished literature, and assembled data and programme experience from countries to review options for pre-exposure and post-exposure immunization. The update targets more cost-, dose- and time-sparing regimens that are safe and efficacious. The update includes practical guidance on patient prioritization in resource-constrained settings.

Highlights of the updated WHO position are summarized below.

Although fatal, rabies can be prevented even after a bite from a rabid animal, with timely and adequate first aid of the wound and immunization when indicated. Systems and data are weak, but this update to rabies immunization policy may offer opportunities to access affected populations and pave the road to accomplish the ultimate goal of “Zero by 30” (that this, zero human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies by 2030).

Supporting documentation is available here.