Iraq declared an outbreak of cholera on 15 September 2015. The current number of laboratory confirmed cases is 2055. As an integrated part of the current outbreak response strategy oral cholera vaccines (OCV) have been mobilized through the international coordination group based in Geneva.
Based on a public health risk assessment, it has been determined that a number of displacement camps housing Syrian refugees and internally displaced Iraqis are at high risk for further spread of the cholera outbreak.
In addition to current prevention and control measures, WHO is working with the Ministry of Health to provide OCV in a immunization campaign for vulnerable populations in 62 refugee camps for internally displaced persons and collective centres throughout the country, targeting approximately 249 319 people. This is the first time Iraq will introduce the OCV Shanchol vaccine.
2 doses of vaccine are required for an individual to be protected. The campaign begins with an initial round of vaccinations followed by – after a required, minimum 14 days interval – a second round of doses, which will complete the vaccination. For such a campaign to be effective, it is vital that a second dose is administered. The first round is scheduled to take place on 31 October.
Targeted social mobilization, campaign logistics and health education are key components to ensure the successful implementation of OCV. In order to achieve herd immunity all members of a family above 1 year of age must be vaccinated.
Additional staff from WHO and health cluster partners have been deployed to Iraq in order to support the cholera response measures, facilitate the logistics and preparation of the campaign in select locations to ensure as many people as possible are protected.
The provision of safe water, sanitation and personal hygiene will continue to be the critical cholera prevention and control measures. Cholera vaccination is a safe and effective additional tool that can be used under the right conditions to supplement existing priority cholera control measures, not to replace them, and prevention and control measures must be accelerated before, during and after the 2 successive rounds.