Neglected tropical diseases

WHO workshop: visionary plans to scale-up rabies control

14 December 2018 | Geneva −− Representatives from 11 countries have convened at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters to devise plans for scaling up rabies control that aim to achieve WHO’s Zero by 30 global strategic plan: to end human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

This meeting follows the recent announcement by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, of a new investment strategy [link to other article]. This strategy will expand Gavi’s portfolio to include human rabies vaccines, and may include scaling up rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in countries where Gavi runs other vaccine programmes.

This promising step towards the Zero by 30 goal has encouraged representatives of the meeting to devise ambitious plans that build on this fresh momentum. Visionary plans have been drawn up for rabies elimination in Bangladesh, Kenya, Namibia and the United Republic of Tanzania. Representatives shared best practices and lessons learnt, and heard about success stories from Latin America.

It is clear that we can achieve a great deal when stakeholders pull together,” said Dr Bernadette Abela-Ridder, Team Leader of the Zoonotic Neglected Tropical Diseases unit, WHO Department of Control Neglected Tropical Diseases. “I am optimistic that with the kind of energy displayed at this meeting, we can accelerate quickly towards our goal”.

The organizations represented, which ranged from nongovernmental organizations to academics, to private corporations, brought a range of perspectives to stimulate discussion. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization shared insights on the use of plastic dog collars as an effective method of tracking dog vaccination rates. These collars last approximately 90 days, and allow researchers to track dogs that were missed out of vaccination rounds.

Others explained the important role of the mass media in driving demand to services, and its capacity, for example, to cost efficiently drive millions of people to engage in mass dog vaccinations, including the value of engaging communities.

Elimination of dog-mediated human rabies is complex and difficult, but achievable. It requires sustained efforts to improve disease awareness, community engagement, responsible dog ownership, mass dog vaccination, cross-sectoral collaboration, appropriate wound management and access to post-bite treatment (post-exposure prophylaxis).

In the past, the global response has been fragmented and uncoordinated, and there has been a need for stakeholders to come together with a combined will, an achievable goal and a common plan.

This workshop, held at WHO headquarters on 11–12 December 2018, serves as an illustration of how working together and learning from each other can accelerate progress.

Ashok Moloo
Telephone: +41 22 791 16 37
Mobile phone: +41 79 540 50 86