Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Oral cholera vaccination in hard-to-reach communities, Lake Chilwa, Malawi

Francesco Grandesso, Florentina Rafael, Sikhona Chipeta, Ian Alley, Christel Saussier, Francisco Nogareda, Monica Burns, Pauline Lechevalier, Anne-Laure Page, Leon Salumu, Lorenzo Pezzoli, Maurice Mwesawina, Philippe Cavailler, Martin Mengel, Francisco Javier Luquero & Sandra Cohuet


To evaluate vaccination coverage, identify reasons for non-vaccination and assess satisfaction with two innovative strategies for distributing second doses in an oral cholera vaccine campaign in 2016 in Lake Chilwa, Malawi, in response to a cholera outbreak.


We performed a two-stage cluster survey. The population interviewed was divided in three strata according to the second-dose vaccine distribution strategy: (i) a standard strategy in 1477 individuals (68 clusters of 5 households) on the lake shores; (ii) a simplified cold-chain strategy in 1153 individuals (59 clusters of 5 households) on islands in the lake; and (iii) an out-of-cold-chain strategy in 295 fishermen (46 clusters of 5 to 15 fishermen) in floating homes, called zimboweras.


Vaccination coverage with at least one dose was 79.5% (1153/1451) on the lake shores, 99.3% (1098/1106) on the islands and 84.7% (200/236) on zimboweras. Coverage with two doses was 53.0% (769/1451), 91.1% (1010/1106) and 78.8% (186/236), in the three strata, respectively. The most common reason for non-vaccination was absence from home during the campaign. Most interviewees liked the novel distribution strategies.


Vaccination coverage on the shores of Lake Chilwa was moderately high and the innovative distribution strategies tailored to people living on the lake provided adequate coverage, even among hard-to-reach communities. Community engagement and simplified delivery procedures were critical for success. Off-label, out-of-cold-chain administration of oral cholera vaccine should be considered as an effective strategy for achieving high coverage in hard-to-reach communities. Nevertheless, coverage and effectiveness must be monitored over the short and long term.