Harare, 1 July 2021 – UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and WHO have partnered with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to launch a new vaccine campaign introducing typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV) into the routine immunisation schedule across the country.
The TCV campaign, the first of its kind in the region, was made possible through funding from Gavi and the multi-donor Health Development Fund (HDF) supported by the European Union, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Irish Aid and Gavi.
“Before the discovery of antibiotics, typhoid would kill as many as one in five people who contracted it,” said Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director of Country Programmes at Gavi. “The rise of extreme drug resistant typhoid risks bringing us back to levels of mortality not seen since the 19th century, posing a risk to all of us. That’s why typhoid conjugate vaccine is so important and why the government of Zimbabwe deserves praise for introducing this lifesaver into its routine immunisation programme.”
The campaign has integrated TCV with the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. In addition, children aged 6 to 59 months received a vitamin A supplementation. After the initial campaign, TCV will be administered routinely to all children at 9 months of age to protect them from typhoid fever which has become endemic in Zimbabwe with outbreaks continuing to affect communities, particularly children.
UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr Tajudeen Oyewale said: “Vaccines are one of the best investments we can make to give every child a healthy start and this vaccine is an important step toward our goal of addressing the high burden of typhoid in children. For too long, typhoid, which invariably affects the world's poorest communities, has been neglected in efforts to improve global health. With this new vaccine, countries will finally be able to protect millions of children who are most vulnerable.”
Inadequate water sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and persistent water shortages particularly in urban hotspots such as Harare exacerbate the spread of typhoid. In addition, there has been an upsurge in antimicrobial resistance to Salmonella typhi which makes it difficult and expensive to treat typhoid.
Funding from Gavi and HDF covered the procurement of vaccines, distribution, and installation of cold chain equipment to ensure that vaccines are kept under required storage conditions, UNICEF played an integral role in ensuring that caregivers and communities are aware of the benefits of vaccines.
WHO, UNICEF and the Government empowered Village Health Workers (VHW) across the country to advocate for and educate communities, and encourage caregivers to access vaccinations for children. VHWs have become a critical stakeholder in the Expanded Program on Immunisation.
Dr Alex Gasasira, WHO Representative to Zimbabwe noted that Zimbabwe’s introduction of typhoid conjugate vaccine through an integrated campaign actualised the strategic priorities of the Immunization Agenda 2030 that was launched by Gavi, UNICEF and WHO in April 2020. The campaign contributed to the strengthening of health security in Zimbabwe by preventing disease outbreaks due to typhoid and polio. The delivery of integrated package of interventions during the campaign also increased access to services.
Zimbabwe is the third country in the world to introduce the typhoid conjugate vaccine into the routine immunisation programme showing Zimbabwe’s leadership in immunisation in the Africa region and globally.
In 2019 Pakistan introduced the vaccine into routine immunisation schedules and Liberia followed suit in April 2021. Both campaigns were funded by Gavi and supported by WHO.
UNICEF and partners are invested in the safety and wellbeing of women and children. The timely introduction of TCV is a giant step towards elimination of typhoid and other endemic diseases in the country.