Liberia is taking the lead in introducing the typhoid vaccine for children
To counteract typhoid, a disease reported to be endemic in Liberia with more than 7,400 cases per year, the government first introduced a vaccine for their regular child vaccination this month at the Ministry of Health, according to Adolphus Clarke, the country’s program manager for National Vaccination . “Typhoid has become a very worrying disease. If you go to the hospital, you will be diagnosed with either typhoid or malaria,” says Clarke, adding that this new vaccination campaign affects more than a million children between the ages of nine months and 14, according to the RFI -Stats, most of the typhus cases in the country have occurred in children under 15 years of age. Typhoid is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body and can be fatal if not treated immediately. Once the Department of Health hits its target of 1.9 million children, they will be traveling across the country to make sure the rest of the age group is covered by the vaccine. “There will be a mop-up exercise that will last three to four days to ensure that we are able to capture and cover whatever we are targeting in Liberia,” he says. According to Clarke, preliminary data shows that just over 557,890 children under the age of 14 have been vaccinated since the vaccination campaign began on September 6th. Resistance from community members However, some parents do not feel the need to have their children vaccinated, like Teresa Wilson, 35 , a resident of central Monrovia, one of the few skeptical parents. “I can’t allow my children to take the vaccine because I don’t have enough information. Yesterday we heard that the government gave people Covid-19 vaccines, and today we hear about typhoid vaccines, “she says. She fears that the government could administer the Covid-19 vaccine under the guise of a typhoid vaccine, but Clarke disagrees. Brendalyn Saah, a 26-year-old nurse, is tasked with administering the typhoid vaccine in West Point, Liberia’s largest slum. She attributes the low turnout during the first two days of the vaccination exercise to the lack of awareness among Liberians. “We faced a lot of resistance in the beginning, but from now on parents are allowing their children to be vaccinated,” she told RFI during an interview. Safe VaccineVaccine program manager Clarke has urged parents to take the time to understand what the vaccine is and ensure their children are vaccinated to avoid contracting the disease. At the same time, according to Clarke, negotiations are under way to introduce the typhoid vaccine for adults as well. Survivors of the Civil War Massacre in Liberia Respond to News of US Trials Hopes That Traditional Liberian Leaders Will Help Eradicate FGM “As soon as we submit the application and get approval, we will notify the general public and the vaccine will be available,” says Clarke. According to Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, director of the Center for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland Medical School in the United States, said the vaccine is safe and has no major negative side effects. “The main side effect is an aching arm – a child may have arm pain, but it usually occurs within a day or two,” says Neuzil, who is also the director of the Typhoid Vaccine Acceleration Consortium. “It’s very rare that this vaccine even causes a fever, so it’s a well-tolerated vaccine,” she told RFI in a Zoom interview. Neuzil commends Liberia for prioritizing child health for the typhoid vaccine. “It really shows a lot of leadership in putting child health first by being the first in Africa to introduce this vaccine into routine immunization, and it’s a great lesson for other countries,” she says. Now that Liberia has paved the way, it is time for other African countries to emulate Liberia’s good example to combat typhus from within Africa, she added.