South Sudan: The World’s First Hepatitis E Vaccination Campaign

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Health workers in South Sudan have carried out a vaccination campaign in response to an outbreak of hepatitis E. The Ministry of Health of South Sudan asked MSF to help its efforts to control the outbreak through a large-scale vaccination campaign.

JUBA JULY 28: In a global first, health workers in South Sudan have carried out a vaccination campaign in response to an outbreak of hepatitis E, raising hopes in the fight against a disease that is especially fatal for pregnant women.

In March and April 2022, MSF and South Sudan’s Ministry of Health jointly carried out the first two rounds of the hepatitis E vaccination campaign in Bentiu’s internally displaced persons camp in South Sudan’s Unity state. Around 25,000 people, including pregnant women, have received the vaccine. A third and final round will be conducted in October 2022.

The Ministry of Health of South Sudan asked MSF to help its efforts to control the outbreak through a large-scale vaccination campaign. The only available hepatitis E vaccine, Hecolin, has been shown in clinical trials to be highly effective at preventing disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that it be considered in outbreak responses since 2015. However, until now, it has only been used on an individual basis in China, where it is licensed and used to vaccinate travellers. The vaccination campaign in Bentiu is the first time it has been used in response to a public health emergency.

The success of the Bentiu vaccination campaign shows that it is possible to use the vaccine for outbreak response, even under difficult conditions. South Sudan’s Ministry of Health and MSF is monitoring and reporting on the results of the vaccination campaign.

While other outbreak control measures are also necessary, including improving water and sanitation services, health officials believe this vaccination campaign is an important step toward reducing the burden of hepatitis E in the future. MSF hopes the campaign will encourage other countries to use the vaccine as part of measures to control outbreaks of hepatitis E.

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