Diphtheria vaccination held in Cox’s Bazar schools

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 2 January 2018 - As schools reopened on 1st January after the winter break, children in Ukhia sub-district of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, lined up to not only receive new books, but also a dose of diphtheria tetanus (DT) vaccine.

Children were vaccinated by WHO and UNICEF mobilized vaccinators and military nurses, as all health system staff remained on country-wide strike.

School children, living in areas close to the Rohingya camps in Ukhia and Tekhna sub-districts are being administered a dose of DT vaccine, as part of the diphtheria outbreak response.

“Childhood vaccination coverage is already high in Bangladesh. Protecting children with another dose of DT as a precautionary measure, will help to curtail further spread of diphtheria,” Dr Roderico Ofrin, Regional Emergency Director said, adding that this initiative demonstrates the health sector’s commitment to protect people, particularly children, through vaccination.

The school vaccination initiative was planned on 1st January as children report to schools in large numbers to receive free books given by government at the start of the academic year. Missed children, if any, would be vaccinated on 3 January.

Earlier, 149 962 children six months to six years were administered vaccines for diphtheria and other live threatening diseases in a vaccination campaign that ended on 31st December 2017. Additionally, 165 927 children and adolescents aged 7 years to 15 years were given DT vaccine.

Two more rounds of vaccination are planned with diphtheria containing vaccines.

Diphtheria is an infectious respiratory disease. It spreads through air droplets by coughing or sneezing. Risk factors include crowding, poor hygiene and lack of immunization.

Between 8 November and 31 December, 28 deaths and 3014 suspected cases of diphtheria have been reported from Cox’s Bazar. Nearly 10 594 contacts of these suspected cases have been put on diphtheria preventive medication.

WHO has released US$1.5 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies to scale up response to diphtheria outbreak among Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, over the next six months.

The funds are being used to support immunization; provide essential medicines and supplies; improve capacities for laboratory testing, case management and contract tracing; and engage with communities.