|Representatives from Việt Nam's agencies and international partners sign commitments for joints efforts to curb rabies disease. — Photo Courtesy of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Việt Nam|
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam needs to adopt lessons learned and work closely with local governments to ensure fewer deaths from rabies.
For World Rabies Day 2022 (September 28), a joint event in Bến Tre Province was held to highlight the commitment to the 'Zero by 30' goal, review Việt Nam's National Rabies Control Programme and discuss opportunities for supporting increased vaccination in dogs.
The event was the result of collaboration between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and southern Bến Tre Province's People's Committee, along with the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative Office for Việt Nam, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Việt Nam, and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC).
This year's theme is 'One Health, Zero Deaths', leveraging the concept of 'One Health' that is increasingly entrenched in disease control programmes. Recent examples, such as COVID-19 and antimicrobial resistance, have shown the world that the health of people, animals, and the environment are inextricably linked and interdependent.
The spirit behind this year's theme encourages collaboration, partnership, and a joint approach toward rabies elimination, in line with the "Zero by 30: Global Strategic Plan for the elimination of dog-mediated human rabies deaths by 2030".
The global strategic plan was jointly adopted by WHO, FAO, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) in 2018.
In Việt Nam, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and local governments, with support from these international partners, have been working together to implement the National Programme on Rabies Prevention and Control.
While some progress has been made over the past ten years, Việt Nam has reported 70 to 100 human deaths from rabies each year.
In the first eight months of this year, the country reported 40 human deaths in 16 cities and provinces nationwide, with the most cases reported in Bến Tre (12 cases), Kiên Giang (5 cases) and Gia Lai (4 cases).
Despite a significant decrease in rabies deaths in some provinces, the number of deaths increased in 20 provinces between 2017-2021 compared to 2011-2016.
On average, every year, about 400,000 people bitten by dogs and cats need a rabies vaccine, at an estimated cost of more than VNĐ300 billion per year.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, a recent survey in 13 cities and provinces across the country questioned 1,248 dog owners and tested samples from 214 dogs suspected of carrying rabies.
As a result, the virus was found in 100 samples, accounting for 46.7 per cent of total tests.
Agricultural ministry statistics show that there are nearly seven million dogs across Việt Nam, but only 40 per cent are vaccinated.
Only 13 localities, or 20 per cent, have over 70 per cent vaccination rates.
Most of the rabid dogs are unvaccinated street dogs. In many cases, dog owners do not register their pets and let them outside without a muzzle.
Reducing human deaths from rabies caused by dogs has been a critical goal and challenge for many countries in recent decades.
According to WHO, about 59,000 people die a year from rabies, and more than 10 million people must be vaccinated.
Việt Nam is committed to achieving the 2030 goal of eliminating human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies by renewing the National Programme on the Control and Elimination of Rabies 2022-2030.
The WHO, FAO, and US CDC restated their continuing support to the Government of Việt Nam in developing essential policies and mechanisms to reduce deaths.
Observing World Rabbies Day 2022, Acting WHO Representative in Việt Nam Socorro Escalante emphasised the need for strong commitment and the targeting of priority areas to eliminate deaths by 2030.
"Strengthening political commitment to ensure access, availability and affordability to proven interventions such as safe, effective and quality-assured vaccines are critical to saving lives and ensuring a One Health approach to eliminating rabies," she said.
"Strong coordination between animal, human health, and other sectors is vital to ensure prevention and control programmes are efficiently and effectively managed," she added.
Dr Rémi Nono Womdim, FAO Representative in Việt Nam, said: "There is increasing international and high-level political support for One Health as a sustainable solution to combat threats such as rabies. Dog vaccination is the most cost-effective single intervention to protect humans from contracting rabies. By working together using the One Health approach, to increase rabies vaccination coverage in animals to reach at least 70 per cent, we can break the transmission of rabies to humans and accelerate the progress toward the 'Zero by 30' goal."
Dr Lindsay Kim, Global Health Security Programme director, US CDC office in Việt Nam, said: "To improve canine vaccination coverage, we need to ensure rabies vaccine availability, accessibility, and affordability (3A)."
"Furthermore, strengthening rabies surveillance using the One Health approach and integrating it with the event-based surveillance programme currently implemented and advocated by the Ministry of Health should also be focused to get closer to the 'Zero by 30' goal," Lindsay said.
The Government, particularly at the local level, is recommended to prioritise and increase resources for managing dog populations, vaccinating dogs, and providing post-exposure prophylaxis for those bitten by dogs. FAO, WHO and US CDC commit to providing ongoing technical support to Việt Nam as they work together to end human deaths from dog-mediated rabies in Việt Nam. — VNS