Liberia Becomes First Country in Africa to Introduce Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine

Introduction of typhoid conjugate vaccine is vital step in global effort to stop drug-resistant typhoid.

Liberia today became the first country in Africa to introduce the new typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV) into its Expanded Program for Immunization. The vaccine will be introduced to children nationwide in April 2021, beginning with a five-day vaccination campaign to reach 1.9 million children from nine-months- to younger than 15 years of age across Liberia’s 15 counties. This will be followed by introduction of TCV into Liberia’s routine immunization schedule for nine-month-old infants.

“While our country and the globe continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we are glad to be able to protect our children from another disease, typhoid, which takes a tremendous toll especially among young children in Liberia,” said Liberia’s Honorable Minster of Health, Doctor Wilhelmina Jallah.  “Making the TCV available to all children means better health, fewer hospital visits, and greater school productivity. Routine vaccination can relieve pressure on health services and resources at a time when those are being overstretched by our response to COVID-19.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends countries continue routine immunization services when possible, despite COVID-19. The campaign in Liberia is being conducted with all COVID-19 precautions in place. Social distancing will be used at vaccination sites, masks are required, and health care workers will have appropriate personal protective equipment.

WHO has prequalified and recommended TCV as a safe and effective one-dose vaccine, injected intramuscularly, that is expected to provide long-lasting immunity in adults, children, and infants six months of age and older. WHO has recommended TCV for use in all typhoid-endemic countries—including Liberia—because of its higher efficacy compared to other typhoid vaccines, suitable for children as young as 6 months of age, and lower cost. The vaccine does not protect against COVID-19.

Typhoid, a serious illness caused by Salmonella Typhi, is spread through contaminated food and water. The disease can cause fever, diarrhea, and vomiting and is sometimes fatal. The latest Global Burden of Disease analysis estimates that in 2019, Liberia had 5,836 typhoid cases, 59% among children younger than 15 years old.

“Typhoid is a highly contagious disease, but it is preventable,” said Doctor Wilhelmina Jallah, the Minister of Health. “Prevention of typhoid through vaccination is one of the most effective ways we have to fight this disease. In addition, other measures such as provision of clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (such as frequent hand washing) should be promoted alongside the TCV introduction. These other measures are critically important not only for preventing typhoid, but also preventing the spread of other infectious diseases.”

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