MATABELELAND region has been hard hit by a shortage of rabies vaccines amid reports that most cases of dog bites in the region were by canines that had not been vaccinated, putting people’s lives at risk.

Matabeleland South provincial medical officer Rudo Chikodzore on Friday confirmed the vaccine shortages.

“This is true. We have a shortage of rabies vaccines in the province. Rabies vaccines are currently is short supply from NatPharm, so that has affected the province,” she said.

The same sentiments were echoed by her counterpart from Matabeleland North, Purgy Chimberengwa.

“Matabeleland North, like other sister provinces, has also faced the same problem of the shortage of these vaccines in our health institutions,” Chimberengwa said.
Rabies is endemic in Zimbabwe and many parts of the Sadc region. In Zimbabwe rabies largely affects Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Harare, Gokwe North, Gokwe South,
Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Masvingo provinces.

Bulawayo health services director Edwin Sibanda said he was on leave and referred questions to his deputy, Khulamuzi Nyathi, who said he would have to check whether they had adequate stocks of the vaccines.

“I will have to check with the pharmacist to see whether we still have the stocks. You can contact me later,” Nyathi said.

However, a source in the city’s health department said they had nothing in stock.

“There’s nothing in Bulawayo. Last week, we had a case of a child who was bitten by a donkey in Brunaperg, Plumtree, and was referred to United Bulawayo Hospitals, but couldn’t find help. The relatives had to go and buy the vaccines in Botswana,” he

According to the Department of Veterinary Services in the Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement ministry, rabies could be eliminated completely if 70% of the dog population is constantly vaccinated.

Rabies is a highly fatal viral infection of the nervous system that affects all warm-blooded animal species, including humans.

When the virus is transmitted to domesticated carnivores such as dogs and cats, a cycle of transmission begins among domesticated carnivores, endangering people.

Once the symptoms of rabies develop in animals or humans, there is no cure and the disease is fatal.

Rabies kills 50 000 people worldwide every year.