A world health group is sending nearly one million doses of oral cholera vaccine to Bangladesh as a precautionary measure to protect scores of Rohingya Muslim migrants who have fled violence in neighboring Myanmar.
The International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision said it quickly approved a request made by the Bangladesh government on Sept. 27 to release 900,000 doses of the vaccine to prevent cholera among vulnerable populations of migrants and host communities in the Cox’s Bazar region in southern Bangladesh.
The New York Times reported that, since August, more than 500,000 Rohingya have crossed the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh to escape what the United Nations has called an ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in western Rakhine State, joining more than 200,000 Rohingya who were already in camps there.
According to ICG, migrants are crowded into camps or temporary settlements, where the risk for cholera is elevated due to limited access to clean water and sanitation and heavy rains. ICG said it would deliver the doses of oral cholera vaccine within 2 weeks for an immunization campaign that is due to start in October.
“This is a precautionary step to avoid a preventable cholera outbreak,” Abul Kalam Azad, MD, MBBS, director general of health services at the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said in a statement.
ICG is the coordinating mechanism for Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, UNICEF and WHO. The vaccine delivery is also being supported by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
According to the group, the oral cholera vaccine provides “immediate, short-term protection that can be implemented while interventions to improve access to safe water and sanitation are put into place.” – by Gerard Gallagher
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