Africa: Zimbabwe Administers First Ever Typhoid Vaccine

Health workers at Mpilo Hospital (File Photo).

Harare: Zimbabwe has become the first ever African country to administer a Typbar-typhoid conjugate vaccine in mass vaccination campaign – also a first in the continent.

 “Zimbabwe is the first country in Africa to benefit from the mass typhoid vaccination, which has been proven safe and effective,” said WHO Country Representative Dr Alex Gasasira of the campaign.

First, the Typbar-typhoid conjugate vaccine against typhoid is new, and, unlike the routine typhoid immunization, it has proven safe for children younger than 2 years (but older than 6 months).

In addition, Zimbabwe is the first country in Africa to have the vaccine and to have used it in the continent’s first-ever mass typhoid vaccination campaign that ran from February 25 to March 4, as well as one that was launched in response to an outbreak situation.

“We noted with concern that typhoid cases in Harare had been on the increase, with the peak reached in December 2018,” explains Dr Obadiah Moyo, Minister of Health and Child Care.

“In order to prevent further spread of typhoid, we decided to introduce the typhoid conjugate vaccine in high-risk areas while at the same time promoting water provision, sanitation and good hygiene.”

The Zimbabwe Government, through the Ministry of Health and Child Care and in collaboration with WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and other partners, had planned to vaccinate 370 000 people, mostly children and adolescents, and had reached 73% of the targeted population in the first six days of the campaign

Typhoid fever, caused by a bacteria called Salmonella Typhi that is spread through contaminated food and water and poor sanitation, is endemic in Harare. But seasonal outbreaks have been occurring every year since 2010.

In the recent surge, more than 1 682 suspected and 39 confirmed typhoid fever cases were reported in the capital city between September 2018 and mid-January of this year.

WHO recommends the introduction of the Typbar-typhoid conjugate vaccine to be prioritized in countries with the highest burden of typhoid disease or a high burden of antimicrobial-resistant strain.