MSF praises the campaign and says it hopes it will “change the way we fight” the disease
July 21 (EUROPA PRESS) –
The South Sudanese authorities have carried out the first global vaccination campaign in response to an outbreak of hepatitis E, in the framework of which some 25,000 people have received the first two doses of the vaccine in the Bentiu displaced persons camp , the largest in the country, as reported Thursday by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
This disease is the most common cause of acute viral hepatitis and causes approximately 20 million infections and 44,000 deaths each year, as recalled by the NGO, which has detailed that hepatitis E is transmitted through fecal contamination of water and food, so outbreaks are often caused by situations in which water and sanitation conditions are inadequate.
“The fight against hepatitis E has been long and frustrating,” said MSF medical director Mónica Rull. “Over the last two decades, MSF has responded to outbreaks of hepatitis E in displaced persons camps, trying to control the disease in very difficult conditions and seeing the devastating impact it has on vulnerable communities,” she stressed.
“With the experience of this vaccination campaign, we hope to change the way we fight hepatitis E in the future,” said Rull, after a campaign carried out between March and April with two rounds of the vaccination campaign in this camp. of displaced people in Bentiu, in the state of Unity. A third and final round of vaccination will take place in October.
Thus, the general director of Preventive Health Services of the Ministry of Health of South Sudan, John Rumino, has highlighted that “given the successful implementation and the enthusiastic response of the community in the first two rounds, this innovative vaccination campaign can serve as an example and be replicated in similar contexts to control hepatitis E epidemics”. “I hope the vaccine will help reduce hepatitis E infections and deaths in Bentiu and elsewhere,” he said.
The aforementioned camp was opened in 2014, in the context of the civil war, and is home to some 112,000 people, many of them arriving after fleeing episodes of armed violence and floods. Since 2015 there have been several outbreaks of hepatitis E in the facilities due to lack of adequate access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
The organization has reported that the floods recorded in 2021 caused the arrival of new groups of displaced persons, which worsened living conditions in the area and increased the spread of water-borne diseases such as hepatitis E. Thus, since July 2021 759 confirmed cases of hepatitis E have been registered, including 17 deaths.
For this reason, South Sudan asked MSF for support in controlling the outbreak with a vaccination campaign using the only available vaccine for hepatitis E, Hecolin, which has been shown to be “highly effective” in preventing the disease in clinical trials. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that its use be considered during outbreak responses since 2015, despite which it has only been used in China.
“This is an important milestone for global efforts to combat hepatitis E,” said Melanie Marti, WHO Immunization, Vaccines and Biologics Medical Officer.
“This is the first time a vaccine has been used to combat the effects of this life-threatening disease. And this despite the fact that the vaccine has been licensed for more than a decade, and it has been WHO policy to use it in outbreak settings. 2015. At WHO we strongly recommend that all countries facing outbreaks use the hepatitis E vaccine, including pregnant women,” he concluded.