Problem: With limited global supplies of oral cholera vaccine, countries need to identify priority areas for vaccination while longer-term solutions, such as water and sanitation infrastructure, are being developed.
Approach: In 2017, Malawi integrated oral cholera vaccine into its national cholera control plan. The process started with a desk review and analysis of previous surveillance and risk factor data. At a consultative meeting, researchers, national health and water officials and representatives from nongovernmental and international organizations reviewed the data and local epidemiological knowledge to determine priority districts for oral cholera vaccination. The final stage was preparation of an application to the global oral cholera vaccine stockpile for non-emergency use.
Local setting: Malawi collects annual data on cholera and most districts have reported cases at least once since the 1970s.
Relevant changes: The government's application for 3.2 million doses of vaccine to be provided over 20 months in 12 districts was accepted in April 2017. By April 2018, over 1 million doses had been administered in five districts. Continuing surveillance in districts showed that cholera outbreaks were notably absent in vaccinated high-risk areas, despite a national outbreak in 2017-2018.
Lessons learnt: Augmenting advanced mapping techniques with local information helped us extend priority areas beyond those identified as high-risk based on cholera incidence reported at the district level. Involvement of the water, sanitation and hygiene sectors is key to ensuring that short-term gains from cholera vaccine are backed by longer-term progress in reducing cholera transmission.