2020 vaccinations begin in Malawi

Post by

Jaigar O'Neill

July 30th 2020

It’s all go for our vaccination teams in Malawi!

Despite the setbacks of COVID-19, this year’s vaccination campaigns in Malawi have begun. In July, our teams vaccinated 24,566 dogs in three weeks across the districts of Blantyre, Chiradzulu and Zomba. Now, throughout August, our teams are heading into the city of Blantyre to vaccinate a further 32,000 dogs. By the end of the year, we'll have vaccinated between 90,000 and 95,000 dogs, a big step forward in our fight against rabies in Malawi.

It’s here in Malawi, our flagship project began six years ago. In 2015, the highest incidences of child rabies deaths across the whole of Africa were recorded in Malawi, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre. We knew we could change this.

Alongside the Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development (DAHLD), we ran a mass canine vaccination drive in Blantyre. Since then, for six consecutive years, we’ve returned to the same locations and strived to vaccinate 70% of the dog population to maintain herd community – and protect communities from the fatal disease.

In that time, our education teams have reached over two million children with our lifesaving lessons. They’ve helped children understand how to avoid getting bitten by a dog and what to do it they do, giving them the tools to prevent and stop the spread of rabies – and ultimately, the ability to save themselves and their loved ones.

Why do we focus on the dogs, you ask? Well, 99% of human rabies cases are caused by an infected dog bite so, by focusing our efforts into vaccinating dogs and preventing dog bites, we’re tackling the disease at its source. This is how, since 2015, we’ve been able to significantly reduce the number of human deaths in Malawi, the majority of which are children under the age of 15. But, we haven’t won the fight just yet.

According to our Country Manager in Malawi, Dr Dagmar Mayer, the number of rabid dogs in the city and districts of Blantyre is still high. “Due to unvaccinated dogs and other animals being brought into the city from other districts as well as puppies being sold illegally on the side of the road, there is still a high public health risk. This was proven earlier this year when two such puppies tested positive for rabies.”

So, our life-saving vaccination and education programs must continue. However, this year, it’s looking a little different due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re asking that every dog is brought by one person only to avoid large crowds and to promote social distancing. All staff members will wear face masks and each vaccination clinic will have a hand wash station. People will be asked to stand at least one metre apart from each other in the queues and all vaccinations will be administered outside,” explains Dr Dagmar.

With the support of local radio stations, our most powerful channel after word of mouth, we’re hoping to see high attendance at the weekend clinics to be able to vaccinate as many dogs as possible. It’s only with the cooperation of the dog owners, government officials and the Mission Rabies teams – coupled with the support of our donors and volunteers worldwide – that this life-saving work is possible.

If you can, please consider making a donation today to help us in our fight for a rabies-free world.