Rabies Vaccination

Rabies Vaccination Program

In Tanzania, rabies claims the lives of about 1500 humans per year, most of them children!

The World Health Organisation and OIE World Organisation for Animal Health advocate a ‘One Health’ approach to rabies control – vaccination of at least 70% of the dog population in a rabies-endemic area prevents the spread of rabies between dogs and its transmission to people.

Our yearly vaccination campaigns in partnership with Mission Rabies is following this recommendation which helps to prevent future cases in our area and plays an important part in the reduction of this deadly disease.

Depending on the vaccination area our vaccination teams include a vaccinator, data collector, animal handler, assistant and driver,

We always start of with stationary clinics, these locations will be pre-advertised through a combination of loudspeaker announcements,school visits and sensitisation by local community leaders. Dogs brought to the clinics are vaccinated and owners are given a vaccine card, information leaflet about dog bite prevention and rabies prophylaxis, and a ‘rabies hotline’ card.

In the days following each stationary vaccination clinic, the surrounding areas within each ward are surveyed using a mobile house-to-house method, collecting data of the number of previously vaccinated dogs (in order to establish the percentage of dogs in the community attending the vaccination clinics, as well as to achieve an enhanced population estimate, as a ‘mark-resight’ survey) and vaccinating any unvaccinated dogs found.

The demographic and owner details of each dog are data collected, along with the GPS location and date/time stamp, using the WVS App. Satellite mapping and a path-tracking function on the App are used by the mobile teams to assist with navigation and to assess the geographic coverage of each survey area.

Rabies VaccinationEvery victim of this vaccine-preventable disease is one too many. Our education programme aims to change behaviour to protect. Children aIMG-20160608-WA0015re at high risk of dog bites and contacting rabies. 40% of reported rabies cases worldwide are children under the age of fifteen. In our project areas the paediatric proportion is often even higher. Rabies most often persists in poor communities and rural regions of developing countries in Africa. If the risks are widely understood and appropriate dog bite treatment is well known – rabies is 100% preventable. The financial burden of human treatment is high, control via dog vaccination costs ten time less and protects whole communities. Mass canine vaccination will rid an area of rabies, but this takes time during which communities remain at risk – whilst we work to eliminate the disease, education helps us save lives!

Education and awareness is integral to our mass vaccination projects. We empower children, their teachers and their families with the knowledge to protect themselves from bites, prevent rabies and save lives. We encourage members of the public to bring their dogs for vaccination and sterilisation, and publicise our response team for humane canine rabies control.

No dog is biting without a reason, and teaching children on how to “read” dog body language and how to react when a dog is attacking can prevent dogs bites

Rabies Vaccination


Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is the immediate treatment of a bite victim after rabies exposure. This prevents virus entry into the central nervous system, which results in imminent death. PEP consists of:

  • Extensive washing and local treatment of the bite wound or scratch as soon as possible after a suspected exposure;
  • a course of potent and effective rabies vaccine that meets WHO standards; and
  • the administration of rabies immunoglobulin (RIG), if indicated.

Starting the treatment soon after an exposure to rabies virus can effectively prevent the onset of symptoms and death.

Extensive wound washing

This first-aid measure includes immediate and thorough flushing and washing of the wound for a minimum of 15 minutes with soap and water, detergent, povidone iodine or other substances that remove and kill the rabies virus.

Exposure risk and indications for PEP

Depending on the severity of the contact with the suspected rabid animal, administration of a full PEP course is recommended as follows:

Table: Categories of contact and recommended post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
Categories of contact with suspect rabid animal Post-exposure prophylaxis measures
Category I – touching or feeding animals, animal licks on intact skin (no exposure) Washing of exposed skin surfaces, no PEP
Category II – nibbling of uncovered skin, minor scratches or abrasions without bleeding (exposure) Wound washing and immediate vaccination
Category III – single or multiple transdermal bites or scratches, contamination of mucous membrane or broken skin with saliva from animal licks, exposures due to direct contact with bats (severe exposure) Wound washing, immediate vaccination and administration of rabies immunoglobulin

All category II and III exposures assessed as carrying a risk of developing rabies require PEP.
This risk is increased if:

  • the biting mammal is a known rabies reservoir or vector species
  • the exposure occurs in a geographical area where rabies is still present
  • the animal looks sick or displays abnormal behaviour
  • a wound or mucous membrane was contaminated by the animal’s saliva
  • the bite was unprovoked
  • the animal has not been vaccinated.

The vaccination status of the suspect animal should not be the deciding factor when considering to initiate PEP or not when the vaccination status of the animal is questionable. This can be the case if dog vaccination programmes are not being sufficiently regulated or followed out of lack of resources or low priority.

WHO continues to promote human rabies prevention through the elimination of rabies in dogs, dog bite prevention strategies, and more widespread use of the intradermal route for PEP which reduces volume and therefore the cost of cell-cultured vaccine by 60% to 80%.

Credits: World Health Organization, copied from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/rabies