Guinea: MSF using innovative oral vaccine during cholera outbreak

More than 150,000 people are currently being vaccinated near Conakry, the capital of Guinea, where a cholera epidemic has broken out.

For the first time, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is responding to a cholera outbreak in Africa by carrying out a mass vaccination campaign. In Guinea, MSF team is using an oral vaccine to limit the spread of the disease. The first two phases of this campaign began on April 18 in the Boffa region, near Conakry.

"The epidemic in Guinea was declared in February and Boffa Prefecture is currently where we are seeing the largest active outbreak," said Charles GAUDRY, head of mission for MSF in Guinea. "Since the beginning of the epidemic, 152 cases of cholera and six deaths have been reported. We aim to vaccinate around 155,000 people."

A real opportunity
Traditionally, the fight against cholera involves treatment of patients, hygiene activities, and providing access to drinking water. Although necessary, these measures do not sufficiently limit the spread of cholera. The use of an oral vaccine during an epidemic represents a real opportunity to limit the transmission of the disease.

"The use of this vaccine in the case of an outbreak has been validated by the World Health Organisation," continues Charles GAUDRY. "Two doses of the oral vaccine are administered two to six weeks apart. It is very important that both rounds of immunisation occur in order to ensure optimal protection."

MSF regularly confronted with cholera
MSF is regularly involved in the management of cholera epidemics, such as in Haiti, Angola and Zimbabwe. In addition to treating patients as well as spreading the word within the community about the disease, the use of this vaccine will prevent a large number of cases and deaths.

"Together with the Ministry of Health, we have established more than thirty teams; each was vaccinating more than 1,000 people per day during five days. We are beginning the second phase in about 15 days," says Charles GAUDRY." Given this is the first time we have carried out such a campaign, we will also be documenting its feasibility, the vaccination coverage and how it is accepted by the population. This will enable us to improve our vaccination strategies during any future epidemic."