First oral rabies vaccination of dogs done

16 November 2021 | Health

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

The agriculture ministry last month successfully conducted its first field oral rabies vaccination of dogs in the Oshana and Omusati regions.

According to the ministry, the first trial was carried out in cooperation with the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute (FLI) of Germany, supported with funds from the Global Health Protection Programme of the German health ministry.

The ministry said since 2016, Namibia has been implementing a National Dog Rabies Control Programme, including mass vaccination of dogs and cats administered by injection.

“Through this type of vaccine administration, the ministry could only attain about 76% vaccination coverage of total dog population in the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs), where the rabies control programme ins implemented, instead of the targeted 80% vaccination coverage to achieve herd immunity.”

Hard to handle

The ministry said one of the reasons why it has been challenging to achieve herd immunity is the inability to access stray dogs, as well as challenges that have been experienced by some dog owners who have been unable to present their dogs at the vaccination points.

It said the introduction of the Oral Rabies Vaccination (ORV) method, which is administered through bait, will enable the ministry to reach out to those difficult dogs and improve vaccination coverage to 80% to increase herd immunity.

The ORV has been successfully used in Europe and North America to control wildlife-mediated rabies, and is promoted both by World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Taking the bait

Studies of Namibian dog populations have demonstrated that dogs in Namibia can be successfully immunised with a single vaccine bait, the ministry said.

“The innovation of oral vaccination will enable us to reach most, if not all dogs, especially the stray dogs and dogs that are difficult to handle.

“This new methodology, if fully introduced, will not replace our initial National Dog Rabies Control Programme, but will complement the vaccination for wider dog population reach,” said the chief veterinary officer, Dr Albertina Shilongo.

The field trial was made possible using mobile planning and data capturing technology provided by Mission Rabies, a non-governmental organisation specialising in large-scale rabies control.

Preliminary results are already available and show a very high bait acceptance of more than 90% in dogs.

“A total of more than 1 000 baits were given and the area covered, making this study unique across Africa,” according to the ministry.

“We are here at the forefront of field research to bring this novel tool into application in Africa and elsewhere.

“We are confident that this method can greatly contribute to the global aim of ending dog-mediated human rabies by 2030,” emphasised Dr Thomas Müller of FLI.

With these results the ministry is envisaging to further integrate ORV into the rabies control programme of Namibia.

[email protected]

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