Over 350,000 children to get additional dose of diphtheria vaccine in Cox’s Bazar
28 January 2018, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – Stepping up efforts to curtail the ongoing diphtheria outbreak in Cox’s Bazar, WHO and UNICEF are working with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to vaccinate over 350,000 children in the Rohingya camps and makeshift settlements with an additional dose of diphtheria vaccine.
“An additional dose of diphtheria vaccine is expected to further boost immunity of vulnerable children and help restrict diphtheria. These intense campaigns demonstrate the commendable efforts being made by Bangladesh to protect the health of a vulnerable population,” said Dr Bardan Jung Rana, World Health Organization’s ai Representative to Bangladesh.
The campaign started yesterday and is planned to be completed on 8 February. 81 vaccination teams will conduct 1,000 vaccination sessions. Each team comprises of two vaccinators and three community mobilisers, and is supported by five to 10 local community leaders. Children who are older than six weeks and under seven years are vaccinated with pentavalent vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, haemophilusinfluenzae type b, and hepatitis B. The older group of children, aged between seven and 15 years, will receive the tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine.
To ensure all children in the target age group are vaccinated, over 2,000 community volunteers, imams and teachers are involved in supporting community mobilization during the vaccination campaign. Volunteers and vaccinators have been trained to communicate the benefits of vaccination and to address parents’ queries and concerns relating to vaccination, should they arise.
”We have procured more than 400,000 doses of diphtheria vaccines to cover the Rohingya children, health practitioners, volunteers and staff who are working in the camps. Currently, health workers strive to control the outbreak with antibiotics and vaccines, and to provide needed treatment to those who are infected. We expect to see reduced numbers of diphtheria cases when the effect of the mass immunization drives sets in,” said Mr. Edouard Beigbeder, Representative, UNICEF Bangladesh. UNICEF and partners are continuing to promote improved water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in the congested makeshift camps.
Earlier, over half a million children were immunized in the first diphtheria vaccination campaign held in the Rohingya camps and makeshift settlements in December, and in host communities earlier this year. A third diphtheria vaccination campaign is planned to start four weeks after completion of the ongoing drive. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, WHO, UNICEF and partners are working to establish routine childhood vaccination services against life-threatening disease in the Rohingya camps.
So far, 4,800 suspected cases of diphtheria and 35 deaths have been reported in Cox’s Bazar. Thirty-seven of the suspected cases were in host communities. An estimated 688,000 Rohingyas have arrived in Cox’s Bazar from Myanmar since 25 August 2017, and are living in overcrowded makeshift camps and settlements. At least 58 per cent of them are children.
Vaccinating vulnerable populations against diphtheria is one key component of the outbreak response, which also focuses on early detection of suspected cases, providing appropriate treatment, and tracing patients’ contacts and giving them preventive medication and vaccine.
WHO is coordinating and supporting the overall diphtheria response with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. WHO has provided guidelines and trainings to partners and health workers on the detection and clinical management of suspected cases, and the tracing of contacts for providing them preventive treatment. Antibiotics and over 2,500 doses of diphtheria antitoxin have been provided to treat patients.