March 2023: Partner News Round-Up

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Pakistan kicked off a national anti-polio vaccination campaign March 13 in Sindh and Punjab provinces, targeting more than 21.5 million children under age 5. The first phase aims to vaccinate over 17.4 million children in 13 districts of Punjab and 16 districts of Sindh and Islamabad. A second phase slated for April 3-7 targets more than 4.1 million children in Pakistan’s two other provinces, including 12 districts of Balochistan and 26 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In province’s Larkana district, 890 mobile teams will administer the oral polio vaccine, including in remote areas affected by floods. Teams will also work in railway stations, bus stops and markets. Wild polio is endemic to the region; Punjab ran an outbreak response campaign in February after several environmental sample sites tested positive. With the start of Ramadan, officials are concerned that the movement of people will increase the pathogen’s spread. UrduPoint; The Nation

Earthquake-hit areas of northwest Syria were the focus of an immunization campaign against cholera March 7-17, targeting 1.7 million people above age 1. The 10-day campaign prioritized areas at the highest risk of the disease, such as the Atmeh, Dana, Maaret Tamsrin and Sarmada districts in Idleb and the A’zaz district in northern Aleppo. Oral cholera vaccine was administered by 1,400 teams of health workers, while community volunteers administered doses door to door and visited camps, markets and school sites to ensure displaced people were reached. Additionally, over 62,000 people in affected areas of Aleppo and Hama received emergency cash assistance to support basic needs such as house repairs and rent. Over 50,000 suspected cholera cases have been reported in Aleppo and Idlib since the outbreak was first declared in September 2022. As of March 13, the campaign had reached 1.2 million people.

Outbreak Response

Afghanistan on March 13 launched its annual anti-polio immunization campaign in 31 of its 34 provinces. The four-day effort targeted more than 9 million children under age 5 with oral polio vaccine drops and vitamin A supplements. While the Taliban have banned many women NGO workers—who have historically played crucial roles in raising awareness and vaccinating children—the director of Afghanistan’s National Emergency Operation Center for Polio Eradication claimed that female vaccinators did work on the campaign, in a bid to improve access. The remaining three provinces have postponed the campaign due to frigid temperatures. Reuters; Islamabad Post; Al Jazeera

Sudan launched a two-phase nationwide vaccination campaign against polio on March 18, targeting 8.9 million children under age 5. The four-day campaign was conducted door to door after a 4-year-old boy from West Darfur developed acute flaccid paralysis that was subsequently linked to . The second phase of the campaign will take place in May, following Ramadan. Exbulletin

Yemen launched a polio immunization campaign on March 5, targeting 1,290,046 children under age 5 in 12 Saudi-backed governorates. The three-day campaign was carried out door to door by 10,569 health workers spread across 5,707 fixed and movable teams and was monitored by 1,370 supervisors. According to a government official, the effort was a response to 230 detected cVDPV cases, primarily in areas controlled by the Houthi militia, which opposes vaccination campaigns. Xinhua; Adenpress;

India’s National Capital Territory of Delhi has extended its monthlong measles-rubella vaccination drive by two weeks in all 11 districts. As of March 4, some 993,332 of the targeted 1.1 million children ages 9 months to 5 years were administered the MR vaccine door to door and in camps, government dispensaries, government hospitals and select private hospitals. The extension seeks to reach the remaining unvaccinated children in hopes of eradicating the two diseases from Delhi by year-end. Hindustan Times (1); Hindustan Times (2); Hindustan Times (3)

Syria in late March ran a measles-rubella and polio campaign in the northwest part of the country. Targeting children under age 5, the effort sought to immunize 733,000 with the MR vaccine and 815,000 with OPV. In Aleppo, 34 of 55 “highly suspected” cases were recently confirmed as measles. ReliefWeb

Mozambique launched a five-day vaccination campaign against cholera on February 27, targeting 720,000 people ages 1 and older in eight districts. Health workers administered oral cholera vaccines in health centers, through mobile teams, and door to door—in the midst of tropical storms and severe floods. Water quality and sanitation improvements were planned in conjunction with the effort. The country has recorded about 5,260 cases of cholera since September. WHO Mozambique; ReliefWeb

South Sudan’s Malakal in Upper Nile state started an anti-cholera vaccination campaign March 16 in response to an outbreak on March 7. From February 22 to March 16, the area reported 307 cases (mostly children ages 1 to 4) and one death. The campaign is administering oral cholera vaccine to 53,000 people age 1 and older in the town and in Malakal’s nearby displacement camp. A campaign took place in the wider Malakal area in November 2022. WHO AFRO; Eye Radio

Bangladesh’s Bhasan Char island conducted an oral cholera immunization campaign from February 27 through late March, targeting 30,000 Rohingya over age 1. Health workers administered the first dose February 27-March 1 in 25 centers, with the second dose several weeks later. In 2021, a diarrheal disease outbreak on the island affected 1,500 people, killing four. Daily Sun; The Daily Star

India’s Madhya Pradesh state in early March ran a three-day vaccination campaign against measles and rubella in six wards of its Indore district, targeting 30,000 children ages 9 months to 10 years. The campaign is responding to an outbreak that has caused 56 cases of measles and two rubella cases. Some children received vitamin A tablets during the effort. The Free Press Journal (1); The Free Press Journal (2); Times of India

Indonesia’s Garut regency in West Java started a diphtheria outbreak response campaign in late February, initially targeting eight villages in the Pangatikan subdistrict. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 10 provinces in the country lagged in diphtheria coverage. The Garut government declared outbreak status from February through November 2023. Seven residents’ deaths were attributed to the disease. The Jakarta Post; Antara

Integrated Campaigns

South Africa kicked off its annual national campaign against HPV on February 20, targeting girls ages 9 and older in public schools with two doses of HPV vaccine. The first phase of the campaign is slated to end March 31, while the second is scheduled for October 4-31. The campaign is integrated with measles vaccines. The country hopes to regain public confidence in vaccine campaigns after coverage of targeted girls collapsed from almost 85 percent in 2014 to 3 percent when Covid-19 struck. First-dose coverage had reached about 30 percent as of mid-March. South African MoH; News24; Vuk’uzenzele

Mexico’s San Luis Potosí state carried out a routine immunization campaign from March 21-24. Community members visited local health centers to catch up on missed vaccinations. Children up to age 9 received DPT, hepatitis B, hexavalent, MMR, pneumococcal, rotavirus and tuberculosis shots, while those 10-19 received hepatitis B, HPV, MR and tetanus vaccines and adults ages 20 to 59 could receive any needed vaccine. Archynewsy

Local Campaigns

Argentina extended a national vaccination campaign against measles, mumps, rubella, and polio through March 31 due to low uptake. The campaign—which started on October 1 and was expected to end November 13 (but was initially extended until December 11)—is targeting 2.3 million children ages 13 months to 4 years, aiming to boost national coverage rates, which declined due to Covid-19. The government is requiring all students to show proof of vaccination in the 2023 school year. Argentina MoH; UNICEF

Peru kicked off an HPV immunization campaign in schools across the country in mid-March that targeted 790,000 children in both public and private schools with one dose of HPV vaccine. The program this year has been expanded to include boys ages 9-13. Correo; Swissinfo

Kenya expanded its national immunization campaign against malaria on March 7 by adding eight endemic counties around the Lake Victoria basin to a pilot program that started in 2019. The expansion—to Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega, Kisumu, Migori Homabay, Siaya and Vihiga counties—will take place over the next two weeks and comes in response to the discovery of a new invasive species of mosquito. Intended to run annually, the campaign is targeting 400,000 children under age 2. Despite somewhat high costs and low efficacy, the vaccine has resulted in a more than 10% drop in children’s deaths in the three countries included in the pilot, per WHO. PATH;; The Standard; Xinhua; WHO

Cuba launched the first phase of a nationwide campaign against polio on February 27, targeting 300,000 children between 1 month and 3 years with oral polio vaccine. In the second phase—slated for April 24-29—9-year-olds and children vaccinated in the first phase will receive another dose, and a catch-up phase is also planned for May 2-6. Cuba last reported a case of polio in 1962. Prensa Latina; NAM News Network; Archynewsy

Malawi’s Machinga district started a catch-up anti-HPV vaccination campaign on February 20, targeting 65,000 girls ages 9 to 14 in 240 public and private schools. Supported by Médecins Sans Frontières, the campaign initially ran for two days and resumed March 8-9. ReliefWeb

Nepal on February 23 kicked off an MDA against lymphatic filariasis (LF) in 15 districts where the disease is endemic, targeting people over age 2 with diethylcarbamazine, albendazole, and ivermectin. The two-week effort saw health workers and community volunteers administer the drugs door to door. Of the 15 districts, four in Madhesh province (Dhanusha, Mahottari, Rautahat and Sarlahi) were resuming campaigns that failed a transmission assessment survey. The other districts include Baglung, Banke, Bara, Dang, Jhapa, Kailali, Kapilvastu, Lamjung, Morang, Parbat and Rasuwa. The 15 districts are part of an MDA campaign that initially started in 2003 with 63 districts, 48 of which have since eliminated the disease. While the Nepalese government originally aimed to eliminate LF by 2028, it has extended the deadline to 2030. The Kathmandu Post

South Korea started a nationwide vaccination drive against rotavirus March 6, administering vaccines to all children under 6 months. Infants will receive two to three shots at medical facilities and community health centers. The government is providing two different types of rotavirus vaccines, but mixing and matching is not allowed. KBS World

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Sankuru province ran an anti-polio vaccination campaign March 9-11. Targeting children, the campaign was held in churches and markets as well as door to door. Archynewsy

Western Venezuela’s Barinas city started a campaign against measles, rubella and polio March 20, targeting children under age 5. Slated to end May 15, the campaign takes place in 311 sites across the city. Vaccination sites will also offer other routine shots, like hepatitis and yellow fever. El Universal

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